Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

December 22, 2012

27 life stories are worth remembering

GLASGOW — I became a journalist because I believe that everyone’s story is important and it needs to be told.

I have never felt that conviction more strongly than in the aftermath of what transpired on Friday, Dec. 14.

That morning, 27 people had their lives violently taken away from them. Their names were Charlotte, Caroline, Jessica, Catherine, Avielle, Allison, Emilie, Ana, Josephine, Olivia, Grace, Madeleine, Jack, Noah, James, Daniel, Benjamin, Dylan, Chase, Jesse, Dawn, Mary, Rachel, Lauren, Vicki, Anne Marie and Nancy.

I have carefully memorized each of those names over the last week. I have read as many stories as I can find about the shooting and the victims, and I have cried while reading every single one. Rachel’s boyfriend asked her parents’ permission to ask her to marry him shortly before the shooting. Jack thought Victor Cruz was awesome. Emilie liked drawing pictures and Jessica loved horses.

Some journalists have been heavily criticized for asking family members questions and interviewing young survivors. I understand that not everyone is ready to start talking and may never be ready to talk, but without telling the stories of those 27 people, the world will never know what it lost.

These children were going to be teachers, doctors, mothers, fathers. The teachers had years more ahead of them for teaching, parenting and loving. Those 27 people were important and are still important.

Along with the stories of the victims, other stories have come to light in the days that have followed the shooting. There have been survival stories, reaction stories and coping stories. A Sandy Hook teacher locked her students in a closet until the police got them out. Soldiers across the country have stood guard outside elementary schools. A group of knitters united online to make stuffed monsters to give to the students of Sandy Hook. Members of the legislature who have lost loved ones to gun violence or been personally injured in a shooting have stepped forward to develop new gun laws. Blogger Liza Long wrote a now-viral blog post about her mentally ill and physically violent teenage son.

Then there was the sixth-grader in Utah who had a gun put to her head by a classmate after the boy’s parents allegedly encouraged him to take the gun to school for protection. Here locally, Red Cross Elementary had a student make up a story about a threat against fifth-graders.

We, as a society, need to know these stories if we ever want to help our nation become a better and safer place. We need to know what happened before, during and after. Mental illness will never be properly addressed if those of us unaffected by it know nothing about the issue. Gun violence will never cease if we don’t learn what causes or allows it to happen. Troubled students will become the next killers if they only see a shooter as a celebrity and are not taught the value of the lives that were lost.

Tragedies such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, Virginia Tech and Aurora, hurricanes, earthquakes, drunken car wrecks, drug-induced assaults, rape and human trafficking will never be scrutinized and no one will try to prevent them from happening if the world does not know what happened.

A lot of bad things happened on Dec. 14, so there cannot be one single solution. Banning assault weapons will not single-handedly end mass shootings. Neither will handing teachers guns for protection or building new mental hospitals. The people of this country need a shift in attitude. We need to seek out and listen to the stories around us. There was a 20-year-old in Connecticut for whom we will never know what life was like, because his story was not given any attention until it was too late. His story was important, too, long before he became a killer.

Let’s listen to each other’s stories and tell our own. Learn the value of each story you hear and share those stories. Share the story of Emilie Parker or Jack Pinto or Vicki Soto or Dawn Hochsprung. Don’t forget them and let our handling of the Sandy Hook shooting create good things out of tragedy.

Months or years from now, I want to read the story about how a mom became a better parent after reading about Sandy Hook. I want to see a story about Noah Pozner’s twin sister Arielle doing something incredible in honor of her brother. I want to know that a mentally ill child got the help he needed, because there were resources available to him.

According to the laws of physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We need an equal and opposite reaction to the evil and destruction of Dec. 14, and that reaction starts by knowing the story of what we lost.

Amanda Loviza Vickery is a staff writer for the Glasgow Daily Times. She can be contacted by e-mail at aloviza@glasgowdailytimes.com

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