Why Today’s Events Disturb Me

As I write this post that I know will appear on my blog that is filled with giveaways, quick parenting tips, Twitter Party announcements and Disney travel ideas, I know that some readers will be perplexed.  Why her?  Why here?  I also know that there’s a load of laundry in a wash basket outside my office door that I’m supposed to be folding, a game of Monopoly that I’m itching to play, and a Daisy Troops activity that I’m in charge of creating between now and Monday.

But I have to write this anyway.

I sat down this afternoon to check my email and Twitter stream and learned, like many of you, that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot.  The initial report that I read on NPR incorrectly reported that she had died.  In the chaos and considering that she was shot through the head, that mistake is tragic yet understandable.  Before today I had never heard of Gabrielle Giffords.  While I am interested in public policy, I don’t much like to be involved in politics.  People tend to assume that I’m this when really I’m that, and the bottom line is that I fall all over the spectrum depending on the specific issue.  And yet I was drawn to this story because it was simply horrifying to me.  The fact that an elected official, a civil servant who has dedicated her life to helping run our country, was attacked while meeting with her constituents left me shocked. This was not a story of a woman visiting a foreign and dangerous land on a peace keeping mission who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This was an American legislator speaking with voters about their concerns in a grocery store in Tucson. A grocery store.

In the moments following the reports that flew by on Twitter, someone called my attention to what is being called the “reload” list.  You can see this image at The Huffington Post.  The graphic uses gun sights to target U.S. elected officials who the Sarah Palin Poltical Action Committee hoped to remove from office during the next election.  Listed under one gun target?  Congresswoman Giffords.

Let me be clear.  This post is not about Sarah Palin.  It is not about Republicans and Democrats, conservatives, liberals, libertarians, socialists, fascists…whatever else you can come up with to describe political ideology.

This is about a nation with a state of mind that a.) allows a person or group to create an image using symbols of deadly force targeted at another person and b.) doesn’t respond to this sort of rhetoric so strongly that it ceases to be acceptable.

I am certain that similar graphics can and will be found on both sides of the aisle be it publicly on websites or privately in campaign offices.  Please do not fill my comments or email inbox with the examples.  I’ve seen enough.

So why the visceral reaction from me to this news story when every day there is another tragic story to be reported?

Seventeen years ago as I was getting ready for school, the phone rang.  Someone told my parents that there had allegedly been a shooting in the area of my hometown that could be considered “the wrong side of tracks.” From time to time outside riff-raff would move into our tight knit community, take up residence in a rental in this small neighborhood on the side of a mountain, and eventually move along.  I was bothered by the news, but was also a typical high school junior and went on my way, more concerned about getting to class on time.

Once I got to school, I heard rumblings that perhaps the story was different.  Perhaps it hadn’t been a domestic dispute up on the mountain.  By mid-morning, we knew the truth.

It turned out that my friend Danny, a sophomore, had been shot and killed by his friend, a senior at my high school. The reported motive and details of the event are not important.  What’s important to note is that in a violent rage, a seventeen year old who collected guns shot and killed his mother and his friend.  The first to arrive on the scene were the volunteer EMT’s and firefighters, many of them fellow students at my small school.  What they would later share with me still haunts me to this day.  I do not need to play video games or watch violent movies to know the power of a gun.  I’ve heard first hand what a gun can do to a person, to a child.

I take guns very seriously, the use of them in play, the portrayal of them in entertainment, and yes, the belief that metaphors of gun violence are in any way okay in this nation’s political system.  I cannot believe more strongly that they are not.  Not by any politician.  Not by any political party.

So today while the left attacks the right and the right attacks back, I am sad that more families now know the effects of gun violence.  I am sad that more sixteen year old children know the power of this violent weapon.  And I pray not only for those injured, but that our country finds its way to peace.

Leave a Reply


  • Paula

    I’m sorry about your friend and I totally agree with you! I’m scared for my kids and how this world is!

  • Lindsay

    I remember that day. I was in the bathroom getting ready for school when dad came in to tell me. He’d been there as he was an assistant fire chief. Danny was still alive at that point, shot in the stomach and fighting for life. I remember sitting in class when we heard the news he’d died. I’ll never forget him singing over the pool’s PA system before we’d opened the one day. To this day the senselessness of his death haunts me.

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  • Guns and violence are things that scare me day in and day out. A few years ago there was a shooting at a local school. It rocked me to my core. I was teaching at the time and afraid of copycats. I also worried for the innocent children that witnessed the event and would never again be the same.

    Just a few weeks ago another gun incident rocked our area. A 12 year old boy was with his friend playing with a gun. His friend died and manslaughter charges are pending. The news stories seemed so surreal – they were not even teens.

    Politics aside, we all need to think before we act and remember the innocent children are growing up in this society and watching everything.

  • I agree, but I also have to say that i am from AZ and there has to be something done about all the violence in AZ. There have been 3 random shooting in 1 week. thats crazy. there are to many illegals and I have been shot at walking home in a drive by. My friend was killed in a robbery. AZ needs a serious crackdown on violence.

  • So sorry to hear what happened to your friend! I too was so in shock today when I saw it on CNN and I’m terrified of the state that our country is in…truthfully, I rarely watch the news because 98% of it is bad news

    Your post was very well written! Kudos!!

  • oh and guns terrify me! I actually shot a gun for the first time in my life summer of 2010-my best friend had gotten it and he had been promising to let me shoot a gun for nearly 9 years..I guess I needed to do it just to overcome the fear..I’m STILL terrified of them!!

    • Amy

      Joey, they scare me, too. My brother received a rifle for his 10th birthday, and I come from a family that respects and is knowledgeable about gun and gun safety. More than one family member has a gun collection, and my grandfather was an expert and well-respected hunter. With all of that said….they give me the heebie jeebies.

  • Kathleen Karluk

    Thank you for this post. It made me cry…but then I’ve felt the tears welling up all day because today’s events are so tragic and scary. Thank you for giving like minds a voice.

  • Steffj89

    Actually to me the problem is that more people don’t realize the real power that a gun or other weapon has. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. The thing is so many kids today have played the violent video games, and seen the violent movies and so character x dies in this movie, a week later he is on tv in another one, and three weeks after that he is marrying some starlet in Jamaica, and they cannot process that some of it is real and some of it is not. They do not understand that dead is forever, nor that anger does not last.
    We are a house that has guns. Several, all are locked up, have trigger locks and are unloaded. Both of my older boys though could easily load most of our weapons if necessary. They cannot get into the safe or get the trigger locks off without our help.

  • Terri K (@tkharmonic)

    In my very strong opinion, one of the best things about our country is that we are able to have such a wide variety of beliefs spread among so many people and still be (for the most part) a peaceful nation. We do not gun down members of Congress, we sign petitions and demonstrate.

    What I consider to be the most disturbing thing about the events of shootings were not even mentioned in your post. The death of a nine year old child. My son is nine. All day I kept looking at him imagining what the parents of that child were going through.

    Sorry I can’t articulate my thoughts and feelings any better, I’m really only commenting because I couldn’t stand to leave that child unmentioned.

    • Terri, thank you for mentioning the little girl who was killed. I saw on the news this morning that she was born September 11, 2001. The knowledge that she came into this world on a day of violence and left the same way makes it all the more heartbreaking, and the realization that in her 9+ years our country has moved from one of its greatest moments of cohesiveness to where we are now is even more devastating.

  • What a terrible tragedy…the loss not only of the Congresswoman, but all the others that died with her. What frightens me is not just the incident itself, but that apparently there were warning signs that this kid was troubled. I keep wondering, when will we learn.
    Thanks Amy for sharing the story about your friend…and for honoring those who died with your post.

  • april yedinak

    Considering the unstable nature of the shooter, I don’t know that we can in this instance point to political hate-mongering as the cause, but I have felt sick about the way people are treating each other in the name of politics for a long time.

    I am so upset about this entire situation, but more so about the little girl. It feels like no place is safe anymore.

    I live in a quiet, small town and I know a lot of people and I really love it here. That being said, my middle school aged daughter is homeschooled because of school violence.

    She went to 6th grade, eager with high hopes and lots of friends, but in less than 2 months she was afraid to go to school. Afraid to walk the halls or be in class.

    It started with Swastikas- carved on the gym floor, painted on the walls and written on bathroom stalls. My children are mixed race and this blatant symbol of hatred made my 12 year old daughter afraid. Afraid to laugh and draw attention to herself, afraid to trust unknown white children for fear they might be attempting to lure her into some sort of trap.

    Then, in the next 6 weeks there was a bomb threat, a child that came to school with a shank that he fully intended to use and the final straw- a boy brought a loaded gun to school to shoot another boy he had an argument with. The school was on lockdown for 45 minutes. For 45 minutes my daughter huddled, in the dark, against a wall, under a table while the police hunted for an armed 14 year old boy.

    In a rural community with less than 4,000 people, this happened. I don’t know what we need to do as a nation and parents. I can’t go into someone else’s home and make them a better, more responsible parent. I can’t force someone mentally ill to take their medicine.

    Unfortunately, all I can do is try to keep my kids from situations that I know are dangerous. For us, that means no public school. Yes, she will miss out on dances and field trips, passing notes to friends in the hall and all the ‘normal’ things she should experience, but she also will not experience another classroom lockdown.

    • April, I want to be clear on this:

      I do not for a second believe that politics had anything to do with yesterday’s shooting. This was simply the catalyst for something to be pointed out to me.

      The message that I took away from yesterday, however, is that as a nation it’s time for higher standards of behavior for everyone. Less tolerance of violence and more tolerance of people. Less shining the light on all that is bad and more shining the light on those things that are good.

      I am so sorry to hear about the violence in your own small community. I, too, grew up in a small community and attended a high school where most grades had 75 or 80 students. We all knew each other, and yet tragedy still occurred. There is no way to truly get away from senseless violence because by its very nature it is illogical.

      Thank you for reading and for sharing your own story. Hopefully less people will have similar stories to share in the future.

  • I am so sorry to know the story about how your friend died. I agree — one doesn’t need to be “political” or pro-gun or anti-gun to acknowledge that the way some, on both sides, have been talking about guns and violence as part of the political world can only be harmful to everyone.

  • I am so sorry about what happened to your friend. But I really think mental illness and disturbed people, not guns are what took these lives. (I mean of course, the PEOPLE used guns, but you know what I mean). If someone has it in their heart to kill, they will do it, with whatever weapons they can get. It happens every day in our prisons where no one has access to guns.

    The fact is that this shooter was identified as being a danger to society, and even banned from school because of his violent tendencies. I feel that we have to find a way to deal with THIS. In most times of mass murder, there were ample signs beforehand and no intervention. If he didn’t have a gun, who’s to say that he wouldn’t have made a bomb?

    But the conundrum comes in that we can’t lock people up before they commit a crime. Although it could be argued that with his harassment at the school, something could have been done about this man.