Several hours ago, I was going through a typical, overworked Manhattanite's routine of work, Downton Abbey, and Facebook, when I noticed a status update from my niece in Akron, OH. She is a beautiful young lady, in her early 20s -- not much younger than me, since my older siblings were born a decade prior to me. She is the younger of two nieces I love very dearly, and older than a nephew I adore (not least of all because he reminds me of the best parts of myself when I was his age). She had just posted a message of love and grief about the death of a friend, with requests for prayer for another friend whose recovery was and remains far from certain.
I of course stopped what I was doing and got in touch, to see what had happened and to check on her well-being. What emerged is another tale of senseless American gun violence, propagated by yet one more clearly misguided young man. I don't know how much more I have to say about it, but please bear with me below the orange, cloud-like structure...
For perspective, we don't come from the calmest of neighborhoods, back in our corner of the great state of Ohio. There's a great deal of poverty, desperation... lostness. I remember nights during my childhood when my mother would awaken us to get out of bed and into a center hallway, away from windows, lest poorly-aimed guns fire bullets through the windows next to where we slept. My siblings and I have all lost friends to violence. I had my first "recommended" diary one night in 2007 when I woke up to find a man in the kitchen, stealing food. Thank goodness neither of us had a gun: we're both alive.
But my sisters and I, we worked hard to get ourselves out of danger and into the middle class. It may or may not be working for us, but I was always confident my sisters had done well by their children. They provided well for them, coaching them through good times and bad, encouraging the best in them, sacrificing most of their dreams to foster the best in the next generation. In turn, the kids turned into amazing people, who loved their friends and family and made noble decisions rooted in a wisdom I'm not sure I possessed when I was their age less than a decade ago.
How sad it is, then, to see a sweet and gentle young lady I adore come face to face with the ugly reality of a friend's death at the hands of another human being. To know that someone she cared about deeply is gone, and another barely clinging to life, because another person had a gun and decided to use it for ... well, its intended purpose. Can we be honest about that? The purpose of a handgun is to shoot humans. Sometimes (rarely?), it can be used for protection. But so, so often, it's the tool of choice for some lunatic, or moron, or bigot, or fool who decides that some situation doesn't suit him.
About twenty-four hours ago, a fool/lunatic/moron/something barged into a house in Akron. There were several people there, but not his ex-girlfriend. This fool had a gun, and a grudge, and from what I've heard (which is, to be fair, simply hearsay at this point), he intended to kill a young lady he had dated. That's bad enough. But she wasn't there. So this fool then opened fire on other innocents, spraying bullets around a living room populated by teenagers and children. Some of those teenagers protected the children, and two of them were shot in the head.
A beautiful, kind 16-year-old girl is now dead. And another, 19-year-old girl is fighting for her life. And while the local news isn't yet telling who they are in this story... I know who they are. Because they mean something to someone I love. And one of them is dead, and one will please, please live... and the tragic ripples from yet one more absolutely stupid act of gun violence have reached out for hundreds of miles, into hundreds of lives.
I know we'll never get all the guns. And we'll never be able to fully stop all violent fools from harming our innocents. But please, can we do something? At least to say we've tried.
My beloved niece is in mourning tonight. And I hate that. And I don't want to someday say that my beloved, future grandchild lost her friends to a fool with a gun. That shouldn't be too much to ask in "The Greatest Nation on Earth." Should it?
I'm not much of a believer in prayer, but if you are, I know those prayers are appreciated. And if you're a believer in action, as I am... here's a reminder of why we tilt at this uniquely American windmill.