This morning I found myself standing in a strip mall less than a mile away from where I used to live, a dozen roses in my hand and more than two dozen reporters in my face.
I was standing on the site of the latest mass shooting in America.
A reporter asked me was why I was there.
I had thought about this as I purchased a bouquet of small yellow roses at my local Winn-Dixie this morning. (What types of flowers are suitable to leave at memorials for mass shootings? I wondered. This is now a question we have to ask ourselves in America.)
I thought about gun violence as I made the twenty-three minute drive north from my home, driving past my church that only five short weeks ago hosted a vigil for the Orlando mass shooting victims. I thought about it as I exited the highway: one of the sign’s arrows pointing toward Fort Myers (this way to the latest mass shooting site) and another pointing toward Lehigh Acres/FL-844 (this way to the home of the fourteen year old basketball star killed in aforementioned mass shooting.)
I thought about gun violence as I turned onto Winkler Avenue, now less than two miles from the shooting, and drove past the apartment complex that my husband and daughter and I lived in when first moving to Fort Myers. The home where I nursed my baby to asleep at the same crossroads where a teen girl was killed only a few months after we moved out of our apartment.
The reporters asked me today, why are you here at the site of the mass shooting.
I gave a long answer that will likely be shortened into a ten second-sound bite. If any of my interviews make the evening news, you might hear me say that I was there to offer my condolences and to join my pastor in prayer (whom I missed, but a reporter said had just been at the scene). Or you might hear a clip that makes me sound angry and political (both of which are true), as I declared loudly, “When will this madness end?” Perhaps a reporter will focus on the fact that I am a mother who used to live less than a mile away and that I pray for my child and all these children. Or you might hear the reporter ask me about my small yellow sign said (it said “LOVE WINS”) as I explained that we can’t let fear and anger rule our hearts, and that we must show up for our children and fight for change.
All of those answers are true. But really, I came to this latest site of a mass shooting because when twelve year old children at a dance party — with armed guards present, nonetheless — are killed and injured, we should all show up.
I showed up because this is my community and I grieve for all its children who are lost to violence.
I showed up because there is no such thing as Other People’s Children.Even if this latest killing rampage was due to gang violence and not terrorism — as though that somehow lets us off the hook, or should somehow reassure us that this could never happen to our children (but what of the children who do live among this violence?) — this does not matter.
I showed up because I refuse to stay numb.
I showed up because I believe broken hearts are a good thing. Five short weeks ago I attended a vigil for Orlando victims and it broke my heart. I do not want a heart that is no longer shocked by the horror of a mass shooting.
I showed up because I refuse to remain silent.
I showed up because I am tired of this madness.
I showed up because even though I know that gun violence is not solved with vigils and flowers, it just might begin with open, broken hearts that refuse to accept violence as ordinary reality in America.