What a day it was. Tuesday, May 24. A day that will live in infamy. While we were deciding the candidates that will face off in the November general election in Georgia, a crazed gunman walked into an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and killed 19 children and 2 teachers before being killed himself.
Nineteen children, second to fourth grade, who will never see another sunrise, hear the sound of rain, ride a bike, make a silly face, kick a ball, take a school trip, fall in love, laugh or cry or have a family of their own.
Was there among them an outstanding athlete, an inventor, a business executive, an opera star, an artist, a senator or just some plain good folks who would have made this a better world by their very presence? Sadly, we will never know.
I grieve for the parents whose lives have been changed forever. I know what it is like to outlive a young family member. It should not happen. And these families should not have had their children slaughtered like cattle. And don’t forget the brave teachers who gave their lives shielding the students from the shooter.
I think of my own brood: Cameron, Hayden, Hadley and Harper, Henry and Noah. How safe are they? Will their schools become military-style bunkers? Armed camps? I think of my own school days. The most frequent examples of what passed in those times for violence was an occasional duke-it-out after school and no hard feelings afterwards.
At about noon our time, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary to begin his rampage. By 4 p.m., the full impact of what had taken place began to be known. By 7 p.m., the finger-pointing was underway and those innocent babes who had their lives snuffed out were the equivalent of yesterday’s news.
The topic now was who was to blame. FOX News said liberals. CNN said it’s the NRA’s intransigence. Politicians blathered and postured, depending on which side of the issue they stand. Social media was doing its usual superb job of providing misinformation and conspiracy theories. (Anonymously, of course.)
And I am sure there are those among you ready to weigh in on the issue. I am ready to hear them. But before you do, I suggest that you take a few minutes and pray for each individual victim and for their families. If you aren’t into prayer, meditate or do whatever it is you do but put the victims and their families ahead of your personal opinions on guns. That really isn’t that important at the moment.
Here are the names of the children: Uziyah Garcia, Jose Flores, Amerie Jo Garza, Xavier Javier Lopez, Nevaeh Bravo, Alithia Ramirez, Tess Marie Mata, Alexandria Aniya Rubio, Layla Salazar, Makenna Lee Elrod, Jayce Luevanos, Jailah Nicole Silguero, Eliana “Ellie” Garcia, Eliahana Cruz Torres, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, Jacklyn “Jackie” Cazares, Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, Rogelio Torres, Miranda Mathis and their teachers, Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia.
Their names are unfamiliar to us but they could be your children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews or neighbors. Uvalde could be somewhere in Georgia. And there could be some sick individual just waiting for the opportunity to wreak havoc on our community.
By the way, one time is not enough. Pray and meditate until the horror becomes ingrained in your mind and you want to do something about our sick society besides finger-pointing and blaming somebody else. We just might be a part of the problem.
According to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, there have been more than 2,000 school shootings in the United States since the 1970’s with nearly 700 killed, including Uvalde. No other country comes close.
Our propensity for killing each other is a multi-dimensional problem, involving more than guns. Gun violence is a manifestation of a country that has become increasingly polarized and angry. I see no end to it.
There is a lack of respect for authority. A lack of respect for institutions. A lack of tolerance for differences of opinion. Stifling political correctness. Racism – Black and white. Drugs. Violence. Irresponsible social media. Pandering politicians. Into this mix, we throw in guns-vs.-gun control and more polarization.
Frankly, I am not sure what the answer is. I wish I did. All I know is I am going to spend this time praying for 21 innocent people who did not deserve to die and who should be with us today. Please join me. Let’s save the finger-pointing for later.
•Dick Yarbrough is a four-time winner of the Best Humor Column by the Georgia Press Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb