Valentines Day. The day for red hearts, roses, chocolates and love! Valentines Day started out like that at Margory Stoneman Douglas High School, but by the end of the day, the red that that could be seen was the blood of children and their teachers. Mowed down by a lunatic with an arsenal, which laws allowed him to collect. Laws that at the age of 18 allowed him to buy a AK-15, a semi-automatic rifle. Laws that at the age of 18 would not allow him to buy a hand gun, or a bottle of beer.
The city of Parklands, a beautiful city, grieves with the loss of their children, grieves with the loss of spouses, grieves with the loss of friends. This is a city in mourning, and the cities around have gathered in solidarity.
What we have seen, which has not been common with most other shootings, is the the children have risen up and spoken, and keep speaking. Eloquently, passionately, raw, hurt, anger. Emotions that no young child should have to feel as a result of this senseless grievous shooting.
Schools have rallied around, and staged walk outs. Shouting #enoughisenough and #neveragain, these students want to be heard, and I truly believe they will be. Florida representatives are being called out. Today in parliament, in a 36 to 71 vote, the Florida representatives voted against a discussion on the ban on semi-automatic guns. As a result the bill that was proposed is effectively dead, along with the 14 students and 3 faculty members of Margory Stoneman Douglas High School. Shame on the decision makers!
These students remind me of the movement in the Hunger Games. Lives were played with in the movie, and they rose up. The students of Florida are either on the cusp of voting or are our future voters. One has to wonder if representatives should feel concerned. Is their seat feeling just a little uncomfortable?
On Monday night I went to a prayer vigil and heard these young men and their teachers speak. One teacher said “the reason I can go back into the school, is not because I am brave, it is because of these kids. I go back because of them. Listen to them speak”
It is time for the killing to stop #enoughisenough. It is time for change. The sad part is if 20 dead six-year-old children cannot move the hearts of those who vote to keep the gun laws as they are, then what hope is there for any other shooting incident, unless you decide to take a stand. I am ready to take a stand. To the Florida representatives and for those who are actively seeking positions in the house and senate, who are back by the NRA money, I am taking a stand and it is not in your favor.
I hope that these young men and women, will continue to fight against the availability of semi and automatic rifles. That they will continue to fight against the laws that allow them to get into the hands of murderers. That they will go on to be game changers in this life that they have been given.
Enough is enough. It is time to make changes. It’s time to start thinking about these young lives. We need to stand together to ensure that these valuable lives are safe as they go about their daily routine. In the defining terrifying moment on Valentines day 2018, these young men and women pulled together in their grief. In that moment the #neveragain movement was conceived.
I felt this creeping nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach as the Wednesday afternoon and evening events progressed and by the next morning I had got angry. I have had to take some time to step away and ask myself why I got so angry. This blog is a personal view. Some of what I may say may offend you, some you may agree with. I am not picking political sides. I am looking at right and wrong. We all have our beliefs and our perspectives on life. I grew up in a country that is listed as number 17 on the list of most violent crime countries in the world, where life right now has very little value. I did not own a gun. In 1999, we were offered a job in the USA. We were excited to take this opportunity to live in this country that we had only ever seen in movies and on television. I spent a lot of time reading about the USA. We visited to make sure that this was the right move for us. Finally in 2001, we moved here. Over the 17 years that we have lived here, I have come to love this country as my home. America is beautiful. The people I have made friends with, and work with I have come to love. Some of them have become my family in so many ways.
So why I have reacted so strongly to this shooting? There are a number of reasons. For the most part I am a peace maker. I am also prolife. I believe in the sanctity of human life. I believe that life is valuable from conception to death. I do not believe it is our “God given right” to take life. I personally cannot equate guns with life. People take the view that guns are an inanimate object. Sure they are. However, guns were created with one purpose in mind – guns were built to kill. Whether it is human or animal, guns were created to kill. And yes, I understand hunting for food, but hunting in a city I don’t. Hunting our children, I cannot comprehend. Hunting for the sake of trophy hunting I don’t get it. And you will ask me “What about the shooter, should he receive the death sentence?” If I believe in my stand, then I have to say no. I cannot support the death penalty. However, I believe that he should be incarcerated and left to ponder, for the rest of his mortal life, the actions he has taken. I believe he should have no option whatsoever to be eligible for parole. Let him understand the depths of the anguish he has caused for these families. A death sentence is just to easy.
We moved here in 2001 and so I did some research on how many “mass” shootings have been listed since we moved here.
In 1999 we watched from afar the shocking events of the Columbine shootings where 13 students were killed and another 24 injured.
The next big one covered by the news was in 2007, the Virginia Tech shooting where 32 people were killed and 23 were injured. The blame was laid at the feet of mental health.
In-between these two shootings are 14 “mass” shootings which left many dead and many injured.
We had the Fort Hood shooting in 2009. A military base where everyone has guns and still 13 people died and 20 were injured. Despite all the guns these people died in another senseless killing spree. And again, there was silence on gun laws, and blame shifted to the mental health problem.
Then we had the Aurora Theater shooting in 2012. The shooter walked into a theater and killed 12 movie goers and injured 70 others. Still it was too early to talk about stricter gun laws. Again the blame shifted to a mental health problem.
I was broken when the shooter went into Sandy Hook Elementary school and killed 20 six-year old innocent children and six adults before shooting himself. And the powers that be said it was too early to talk about guns. That this was a mental health problem. Fingers pointed blame at the mother that the shooter had killed prior to going to the school. And there was a deafening silence from those who could make change. I have just looked at the images that came out of the Sandy Hook shooting and they once again brought tears to my eyes. If the death of six-year-old babies does not move a heart, I am not sure what will.
In 2014, a shooter went into a church in Charleston while the congregation was communing and left 9 people dead and 1 person injured. In a place that is meant to be a sanctuary. Again we are shocked and again the silence is deafening. Again it is too early to talk about guns and again his life is pulled apart and fingers are pointed. But little is done to make a change.
In 2015 in San Bernadino, a worker left a Christmas party and then came back with another shooter and between the two they killed 14 people and injured 21 people. The motive was not clear but the action once again appears to be inaction.
And then in 2016, in my state we watched in horror as a shooter held hostage and mowed down the Pulse nightclub goers. His motive was listed as unclear, but fingers pointed at his nationality. Again, those that were in power were called on to make changes. Those law makers in Florida were called on to make changes. While there were repeated attempts to change gun laws, every attempt failed. And the inaction spoke for itself.
In 2017 the active shooter situation moved very close to home. I was at Fort Lauderdale airport on January 5th making sure that Amy had got her ticket, her luggage through the necessary checks and said goodbye to her at the TSA line. She was heading back to Macedonia. The airport was busy that day. There was barely space to move around. I got home safely. The very next day in that crowded Fort Lauderdale Airport, a shooter opened fire on travelers, killing 5 and injuring 6. If we had been there 1 day later we may have been part of that carnage.
And then we had the horrors of the Las Vegas shooting. So much pain, so much loss. Humans picked off by a shooter set up in a hotel while they are out enjoying themselves. 59 people killed and 527 injured. I cannot comprehend why by all appearances, nothing has been done to prevent this kind of carnage.
As news emerges regarding this shooting, it appears that there is a failure in the system. A failure that starts at government level. A failure that continues at the state level. A failure at the FBI level. A failure in the local law enforcement level. A failure to respond to a message from the shooter. All of these failures impact the lives of the Margory Stoneman Douglas High School faculty and students, the parents and spouses of the loved ones who have died. By a larger scale their friends and that of the community. It is time to do something to fix all these failures!
Since we moved here in 2001, there have been at least 96 listed “mass” shootings. 562 people have died! Shootings have escalated from 1 mass shooting in 2001 to 10 “mass” shootings in 2017. Already in 2018 my list shows 2 “mass” shootings – Pennsylvania Car Wash Shooting and Margory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the 17 years we have been here my list shows 9 schools that have been listed as “mass” shootings. How much longer do we as voters stay silent. How much longer to we wring our hands and be complacent? How did it become that school children should take the lead and challenge the powers that be? How long do we sit and wait until it is our child or our grandchild?
In most of these shootings there is a common denominator, a shooter and a gun. Mental health has come up as an issue for many of them. It is time to start looking at the laws that affect all these issues.
Margory Stoneman Douglas High School school children are going to stand up and be counted. And so can we. Although too little to late for some who have already lost their lives. Dialogue needs to be had to come to some consensus on how to protect the young and older children going to school, to protect those who are going out for the evening, or celebrating a Christmas Party, or going to an airport as a guest or a traveler.
In the horror and shock of what happened just 20 minutes from my home and with the words I heard from a Margory Stoneman Douglas High School student at the Monday night prayer vigil, I know I for one will seriously do my homework before I vote again. And if my candidate is in anyway linked to money from the NRA, my vote for that candidate will be dead just like the vote in Tallahassee today.
Thank you for joining me for this month’s 30 Minutes in Life. These are my personal views and not that of the blog group. For the rest of the blog group, please take time to visit my friend and fellow blogger Nicki Bosch Ballet Photography and see what she has for you this month. Keep following the circle of photographers to see what the other photographers, from the US and around the world, have shared this month. Don’t forget to leave a little love on their pages.