Photo Credit: Phil Mislinski/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Maybe it was the sun and sand, endless days and warm nights, good reads and never-long-enough vacations that made us forget about the tiny bodies riddled with bullet wounds and dead teachers in Connecticut. This week, Sandy Hook Elementary goes back to school, yet no comprehensive gun control policies have passed Congress. And despite the just-announced executive actions that have closed two loopholes, the anger, despair and disappointment that gripped the nation has turned into a collective shoulder shrug about the availability of guns and the safety of students across the county.
In Atlanta, Ga., -- Dekalb County to be exact -- it took only eight days into a new school year for a mentally disturbed young man, Michael Brandon Hill, to arrive in the front office of Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy armed with an AK-47 assault-style rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition. Unlike Sandy Hook, Hill was greeted by Antoinette Tuff -- the sweet talking, aptly named, nerves of steel hero who single-handedly talked Hill out of an elementary school slaughter.
I wonder if we’re addicted to Single Tragedy Anger: the idea that we couldn’t possibly focus our energies on one topic instead of jumping from tragedy to tragedy like a CNN news ticker even if the tragedy just so happens to be lifeless students. Our collective memory is a dull one; especially when potentially horrific acts of needless violence end up with one heroic woman inspiring the rest of us to live a more compassionate life of love and empathy.
But this news ticker has stopped for me. Gun violence just got personal.
This summer my family moved from Philadelphia to Atlanta. We were assured by friends that a move South would bring a slower life, the house of our dreams, an excellent school and the kind of southern charm you only read about in books. No one said anything about school shootings.
My daughter does not attend McNair, but her school is in the same district. We received the hastily written emails and pre-recorded voice messages from the superintendent assuring parents that students and staff were safe. Family and friends in the northeast made frantic calls. A few days later, when I turned on the local news station, there was Ms. Tuff receiving recognition from the city and I am grateful for her courage, but it’s not enough. It’s absurd to think that we can build a country that loves more than harms when we refuse to limit the availability of guns.
Ms. Tuff, for all of her heroism, is a fluke -- not an example of effective school safety. She deserves every medal, every honor and all of our thanks. We, the people, the parents, the extended families, the concerned citizens, have to stop our fascination with Single Tragedy Anger -- school shootings, it’s worth noting, are a series of events that continue to increase since Columbine, yet our activism for change has a dull shelf life of a paltry six months. The National Rifle Association clings to our memory loss -- banks on it even -- and dares to question our patriotism when we link the availability of guns and extended magazine clips to -- get this -- violence. I am a patriot, a parent and my new move shatters the comfortable, invisible walls of denial I built around guns: it can’t happen to us.
Because it almost did.
And that’s not good enough. We need to get to a place of never.
Starting right now.