As a parent, I had to turn off the television and silence the radio – I just couldn’t listen to the eulogies for the teens murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14. The grief of those parents was too heavy a burden to absorb, and their loss was too close to home to fathom.
That these families have had to bury children, sisters and brothers who were shot just for being at school on a regular day reduces the mind to numbness. How could this happen? What kind of senseless world are we living in, where someone can deliberately take the lives of innocent people for no apparent reason?
The families of the victims will never be able to recover or move on. Their lives were broken, twisted and distorted by the loss of their precious children. It’s just not possible to live a healthy, even remotely normal, life, when you’ve been saddled with a loss like this.
As Jews, we have a responsibility to work towards tikun olam, or fixing the world, but in a situation this dark, the word “fix” rings hollow. How do you even begin the process of repairing a country where the National Rifle Association yields so much political power that the only response to the notion of gun control is to add more guns; where the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms is more enshrined than the government’s ability to ensure the safety of educational institutions; where the idea of eliminating the widespread availability of guns is not even raised as a possibility; and where all that those in positions of power seem able to offer are “thoughts and prayers”?
Anyone who would release a barrage of bullets into a school is sick and full of hatred. Now, imagine a world where those bullets were impossible to procure, where there was no access to ammunition. The kind of damage caused in this school shooting and the 17 others that preceded it in the United States over the past 13 years alone, would not have been possible in a world without guns.
I can’t stop thinking about the grieving families, whether they’re sitting shivah, turning to their places of worship or mourning in their homes from dawn to dusk. They’re staring at the smiling faces of their children in photographs – buried children who just a few weeks ago were full of promise, hope and enthusiasm. Where once there was laughter and chatter, there are empty bedrooms, empty sneakers and dreams cut short by one angry man with access to lethal ammunition.
Where once there was laughter and chatter, there are empty bedrooms, empty sneakers and dreams cut short.
I kissed my kids goodnight with a different sense of urgency in the wake of that shooting. I admit that I breathed a sigh of pure, selfish relief as I thanked God that this did not happen in my school district, in my city or my country. But it really could have, because there are sick, angry people everywhere. We have stricter gun laws in Canada, but school shootings are not unheard of. The most recent one took place in La Loche, Sask., in 2016. Who’s to say that more of these incidents can’t, or won’t, happen here?
There are no words, no explanations possible for this kind of evil. Nothing can soothe, heal or lighten the bitter chafe of losing a child to such senseless violence. All we’re left with, really, are thoughts and prayers that such a senseless tragedy will never strike our communities, our schools or our own precious children.