When it hits home

It’s hard to admit, but I’ve slowly become numb to all the mass shootings. I’ve tried to avoid this, but these acts of horrifying violence have become frequent parts of our lives. As of Saturday afternoon, there were 41 mass shootings in the past 50 days. That’s one every 34 hours. But then it hits home. And it’s different.

The 42nd mass shooting of the year happened Saturday night in my hometown, Kalamazoo. I hate that it’s different, because it shouldn’t be. But it is. Six of our neighbors are dead. Friends and families are experiencing loss that we all can see. The images across local, national and international news are the streets we drive down, restaurants we eat in and places we shop. The faces are people we know personally and respect. They’re friends and friends of friends. No longer do mass shootings live on the screen. This is our home. And many of us are seeing — for the first time — that it could have been us, our family or friends.

When news broke on the shooting, I was in Lansing and received a news notification on my phone. It was similar to the dozens of others I have received for shootings, but this time the city was Kalamazoo. I felt shock, anger, sadness and guilt for not being there. This community raised me. I wanted more than anything to be there, with friends and family and somehow help the community anyway possible. But that wasn’t going to happen at midnight. I could only call, text and make sure everyone was safe and staying inside.

The shootings in Kalamazoo show how random violence can actually be and that it can happen anywhere. Even when something happens that shocks the country to its core, nothing really changes. Semiautomatic guns and large magazines are still sold, mental health care issues are not addressed and the shootings continue.

But this time it’s home.

Kalamazoo will continue to be strong. Already, we’re supporting one another in our personal grief. When the cameras leave and justice is served, we will slowly go back to our lives. I hope we don’t forget this. We need to find our own ways to help, to find a solution, to ensure that no one has to experience a tragedy like this one in their home.

February 21, 2016