NEW YORK – There’s no respite from the grim horrors of 2017, a year which saw two of the worst mass shootings in the history of the US: 58 people killed in October at a concert in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock, who injured almost 500 others; and a month later, came the shooting in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which saw 25 innocent people die, along with an unborn child, by shooter Devin Patrick Kelley.
Now, in the aftermath of the devastating murder of 17 students and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, an affluent suburb about an hour northwest of Miami, by a teenager, Nikolaz Cruz, a pall of gloom has shrouded the country.
Shakespeare’s opening lines for his play Richard III, “now is the winter of our discontent”, has a different connotation in today’s unpredictable world. Obliterated are waning memories of cheerful revelers in Times Square braving a frigid winter night, only a little over a month ago – fireworks mushrooming across the dark sky in vivid colors. It’s ironical to imagine laughter and glee spreading across the world.
It’s replaced by fear of grim, evil killers coming out of nowhere to kill innocent children, create mayhem, wreak destruction, pour sadness into the lives of countless Americans, with their unhinged, devilish acts.
Gone is the relish over a burgeoning economy, winning the war against terror and ISIS – hounding those unnamed terrorists in the deserts and mountains of unheard places in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Declaring victory.
All those foolproof checkpoints and surveillance at domestic airports seem futile, puny, if, as Debby Miller, a teacher in Broward County, Florida, who writing in The Washington Post, queries: “How does a young man, who’s too young to buy a beer, buy guns?”
What good is all of that, if there is no security against domestic terrorism that rears up its menacing head all too frequently now, kills randomly almost as if keeping a weekly appointment with the devil?
Today, helpless parents, who have gone through agony over several nights to help a child ward off the dangers of flu, or another debilitating sickness, treat that child back to health, are wary to send that healthy child back to school.
If the whole meaning of ’15 minutes of fame’ has been warped to include acts of infamy and notoriety, then the developed nation status of the US is no better than places where there’s poverty, but less violence.
Like Parkland, considered the safest city in Florida in 2017, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was one of the safest places on Earth. An hour away from New York City, before the deadly shooting by Adam Lanza in December, 2012, which took the lives of 27 adults, including 20 children below the age of 7 and his suicide – there was only one homicide in the town in the previous 10 years. Lanza, 20, shot his mother dead too at home that morning, before he mercilessly killed those children in classrooms he himself studied in, grew up.
Today, the first funerals begin in Parkland, of Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, and Meadow Pollack, 18. The staggered funerals, like at Sandy Hook five years ago, will, no doubt, be shown on a loop on national television, detailed by the hour on websites, and in print. It will prolong the misery of a town, state, and country, which is learning it’s impossible to heal, because the wound is festering, will remain open for perpetuity.
The candlelight vigil on Thursday night at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, saw 17 plastic angel statues lit the park’s amphitheater, in place of the 17 people who died, reported the Sun Sentinel. Parents might be wishing now they had sent that statue to school that fateful day, not their child.
There are at least 239 school shootings nationwide, since Sandy Hook. In those episodes, 438 people were shot, 138 of whom were killed, according to a nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. That’s an average of 5 school shootings a month.
There’s no respite from it.
As if on cue, an 11-year-old girl, Jamie Powell, was arrested after allegedly threatening to shoot up Nova Middle School, a day after the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Surveillance video showed her place a note under the assistant principal’s door that read: “I will bring a gun to school to kill all of you ugly ass kids and teachers bitch. I will bring the gun Feb, 16, 18. BE prepared bitch!”
The debate is no more if guns kill people. Or people kill people. It’s the depraved mentality that has set into the conscience of many in the US, from young to old, that’s the real culprit. While politicians dilly-dally on whom to give guns to, or to not give to, or to give to all, the unfortunate truth is that right now somebody, an adult or a youngter, must be in possession of a weapon, thinking to emulate the act of a Adam Lanza or Nikolaz Cruz.
“This stuff happens, and we don’t know why,” Mia Veliz, a senior at Calvary Christian Academy in nearby Fort Lauderdale, who attended the vigil in parkland, told the Chicago Tribune. “There is nothing we can do to stop it.”
A study by the Pew Research Center revealed that 54 percent of gun owners with children under 18 living at home say they keep all of their guns locked away. The RAND Corporation, in a study estimated that more than 22 million children live in homes with a firearm.
Well, go figure, if those children know where the key to those guns are kept.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)