This morning in church Pastor David mentioned before the closing prayer that we need to pray for the families of Santa Fe, Texas, where ten students/staff were shot and killed this past week. He mentioned that there didn’t seem to be as much media coverage of this tragedy. He asked if we are losing our outrage.
There are many ways to respond to this question: If so much notice is given to this deranged teen, do we encourage copycats who are seeking attention? Or did the royal wedding supersede coverage? (I hope that wasn’t the case.) Are we feeling hopeless and no longer know how to react or how to begin to make a change?
I felt my strongest outrage over 37 years ago when my neighbor committed suicide with her husband’s gun. That event may have triggered the strongest emotions of my lifetime.
Since then I continue to feel pure disgust with our American gun culture. I don’t have much hope for changing gun regulations. But every month of April I think of my neighbor and the young children she left behind on a beautiful spring day. Her name was Jean.
This past spring I did something I have never done before: I wrote to a stranger, sharing just a little of my experience with gun violence, but primarily it was a letter expressing my empathy for his loss.
I was visiting San Antonio, standing in a short line to visit The Alamo. I stood and read through my NPR app, focusing on an interview of Phil Schentrup. I was so touched by his words that a few days later I wrote to him. Today returning from church, I stopped to pick up yesterday’s mail and there was a card from Phil.
Phil and his wife Alice lost their beautiful child Carmen in the Parkland school massacre. Phil’s card, with a collage of pictures of Carmen, carried a one-sentence note in response to my letter. Phil’s interview is on-line, the NPR site. There I have become acquainted with Carmen. I now know a bit about her stellar accomplishments as a student and as a child, loved by her siblings, mom and dad.
Driving home from the mailbox, I thought of that name. Carmen Schentrup. I don’t want to forget it. I thought to myself, maybe that’s one small thing that we can do. We can write a note to a family that is hurting from the loss created by gun violence. And we can remember the name of the child who will never be forgotten, who will always be missed and ached for.
Sometimes I think that my rage has gone, but tonight it feels like an undercurrent that is forever running in my veins. I think of the people I care for who own guns, and I fear for their children and grandchildren. I can’t help it. It isn’t a judgment of them but a response to my long-ago experience. And I truly never know what to do with that emotion. Often I just want to scream.
I try to tamp down my emotions as I know they produce/change nothing. But in answer to David, no, not all of us have lost our rage. But for now, I want to look at the pictures of Carmen and remember her always. If we all do that in some small way, if we can put those names out there instead of thinking of nameless and faceless numbers, maybe we can make a change.
I don’t have much hope for our gun-crazed mentality, but I remember Jean and in honor of her and Carmen I want to have hope for our children’s future. I owe it to them to never forget and to never give up no matter how discouraged I may feel. I owe it to them to rage forever, as long as I have a voice and a memory of that horrible April day in 1981 and a memory of Carmen, all of her wonderful days before Valentine’s Day 2018.