On my way to pick up the girls after work yesterday, twice I waited through stop light cycles as emergency vehicles went flying by. The first I ignored. The second made me pause.
Two so close together? Something is really wrong.
I was sitting at the light just next to The Farmers Market and my awareness really kicked in because the police car was in the far right lane as it was approaching the intersection. And then after a couple of moments, I breathed a sigh of relief as the police car turned left across all the lanes of full traffic. I was relieved because left was away from my daughter’s middle school, and although she shouldn’t still be there at 4:30 what if the buses were running late again?
I was relieved because the police were going away from my daughter’s school. It is unacceptable to me that I even had those thoughts and feelings. Why do we live in a world where parents can no longer send their children to school with confidence in their safety?
Actually let me correct that – why do we live in a country where parents can no longer send their children to school with confidence in their safety?
A little while later, the girls and I were just finding our friends at Relay for Life when a friend texted me about an active shooter at the courthouse. My first thought was that it couldn’t be that bad because there’s a police headquarters right there on the same land – officers are all over the place and would have been all over that guy in a second. Last night when I learned the magnitude of what happened I realized how fortunate our city actually is. Police were right there and reacting immediately as things happened. How many more people would we have lost if this had happened in another location?
I turned to my teenager when I read the text and she was doing something on her phone. Did she know yet? There will be no getting around talking about this a lot – it’s happening just 5 miles from us. In fact, she did already know. She knew, and had moved on to other news and social media because this kind of event is sad but not shocking or show-stopping for her. This news is a norm in the world she is growing up in.
The hashtag VirginiaBeachStrong makes me proud and it makes me angry. Why can’t we start being strong in the areas that could help prevent these things from occurring? Why can’t we be strong when we vote, supporting candidates who support mental health care and background checks and reforms? Why can’t we be strong about a commitment to finding a compromise on gun control? Why aren’t we willing to put our strength into finding a compromise that shows that our commitment to life and quality of life is more important than our commitment to allow anyone to own any kind of weapon?
Why are we just perpetually stuck in an argument about what we can and can’t have and what medical conditions we will and won’t help with, and then relying on each other to be strong when the guns we won’t give up end up in hands that kill our family members and our children and our neighbors?
Inaction has real consequences. Our inaction when people are treated unfairly brings us here. Our inaction on access to guns brings us here. Our inaction on access to mental health care brings us here. Our inaction to destigmatize mental health issues brings us here.
Our inaction and our selfishness and our obstinance brings us here. The days of waiting a respectful amount of time after these events to talk about these things are long gone. These events are happening with such frequency that if we always wait, it is literally never a respectful time.
The time to be strong is now, not just because we must because of what happened yesterday. The time to be strong is now because we must take how we feel right now and use it as fuel to do everything we can to address this problem in our individual communities and states, and in our nation.
We need to be strong sooner. Much, much sooner.
God Bless the families and loved ones directly impacted. God Bless our Responders and all the Helpers. God Bless all the people afraid to go to work today and tomorrow and Monday. God Bless all the parents talking to children about what happened. God Bless all the people impacted by events before this one that feel acute pain today. God Bless Virginia Beach.