I felt proud at her outrage and also sad because this is yet another in a long line of national violent tragedies our children have grown up knowing. Our children, who were babies, preschoolers during 9/11 — is this to be their generation’s moniker? Here is a sampling of national violent
attacks during their lives:
Columbine in 1999; 9/11 in 2001; the Beltway snipers in 2002; Virginia Tech in 2007; the Holocaust Museum in 2009; Tucson in 2011; Aurora and Newtown in 2012; and this year, Boston and the Navy Yard.
I thought about when I was growing up. I’m certain there was violence and horrible things in the world. I remember my teachers writing on the chalkboard the number of days the hostages were held in Iran. My high school science teacher turned on the television in our biology classroom when President Ronald Reagan was shot. When Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, carrying a planeload of students returning home from their junior year abroad, I gathered with my college roommates, all of us also in our junior year, and cried.
I’m certain there were more, but unlike our children, I didn’t have Twitter or Facebook to flood me with a constant stream of news. It’s overwhelming and somewhat distancing. Desensitizing. Our parents were able to shield us. News was on television at 6 p.m. or in the newspaper — vehicles far too boring to catch our childhood attention.
I asked my son how he felt about the shootings. He told me that it feels like it’s just one more. In a few months, there’ll be another.
It reminded me of something my daughter had written for the New York Jewish Week in its “Fresh Ink for Teens” blog: “We are the future but not if we are the targets.” She was struck by how often the victims were children.
It was soon after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., that she wrote about how often she has gathered at school for moments of silence, how often she has heard rallying cries of reforming gun control and increasing resources for those struggling with mental illness and how often time passes and people move on.
Is it our new way of consuming news? Our attention is caught only by what happens to be trending at that moment.
Sofie wrote: “It was OK for us to blindly hope when we stood in a circle around the American flag in first grade, but we’re too old now to put our fate in other people’s hands. … But maybe this is our rallying cry. Maybe out of our sadness, anger and fear we open our eyes, become aware and create movement and proactive change regarding gun control and the treatment of mental-health illnesses.
“Faceless terrorists scare me. Burning buildings scare me. Evil gunmen scare me. But what scares me most of all is the idea that the only reaction from Newtown will be blind hope.”
Less than a year later, we’re here again. How many more tragedies will cut through our children’s lives before we truly do something? We can’t wait for them to grow up. It’s not enough to throw a Twitter hashtag or “like” a post and think we’ve done something meaningful. We need action and
reform. And we need it now.