“We ignore and repudiate our unhappy brethren as having no part or share in their misfortunes- until the cup of anguish is held also to our own lips.”Emma Lazarus (1883)
In June, I drove with my family to Washington D.C. for the second March for Our Lives rally .
A man about my age spoke at the rally about his devoted mother, killed at the Buffalo grocery store. He said he’d always known gun violence was a problem, but never felt impelled to do anything about it.
Columbine was the year I got married. Our youngest was born the year our politicians decided it wasn’t expedient to renew the assault weapons ban. She was eight at the time of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, ten days before Christmas. The next school day, I watched the school bus drive away with my children through a haze of sorrow and dread, because I believe it’s almost always a mistake to let fear direct my decisions. I still offered them the option of homeschooling over the years, for a variety of reasons. But they wanted to keep going to their public schools. Despite years of active shooter drills. And the news. Like most people their age, they reflexively check exits and closets whenever they enter a new classroom, evaluate the windows–could they fit through them, hang and drop, is it grass below, or concrete?
At the DC rally, we met up with a few people from our church, and thanks to our gold Stand With Love shirts we kept meeting other UUs. Around us were people with signs that said they were survivors of shootings, gun owners in favor of safety laws, teachers who refused to be armed.
After several speeches, there was a moment of silence that ended with shouts from the front. Someone yelled “a gun,” and the people in front of us hit the ground in a wave that rippled toward us. We dropped instinctively when it reached us. Then the crowd got up and ran. I don’t know why so many people brought young children, and there were plenty of people unable to move quickly for whatever reason. Every story of trampling in mass panic flashed through my head as I walked fast away from the stage, trying to keep space around me, yelling “careful,” until the experienced activist Erica Ford got to the microphone and commanded us to stop, shouted that there was “no issue.” Almost everyone stopped. Some returned, some left. Young survivors of mass shootings cried on the ground and in embraces.
Word was that one of the handful of counter-protesters had charged the stage, unarmed, and threw a speaker off the stage which disconnected with a loud pop.
Last weekend I drove with my family to Evanston to visit more family. After dinner on the 3rd, we went to a fireworks show because there was rain predicted for the fourth. But the holiday morning was hot and sunny, so we went to a beach half an hour from Highland Park. We were thinking of going home to make lunch before walking over to the Evanston parade, when the lifeguards announced that the town had closed the beaches, cancelled the parade, the concert, the fireworks. Most of us had no idea why until we checked our phones. Families pulled their kids out of the water, and the kids protested, wanted explanations. We went home, I made a pie, we enjoyed the afternoon and evening together, because we could.