San Bernardino, California is 2,500 miles away. That is a five-hour flight, or a three-day drive. It’s far away; outside the scope of our daily lives here in State College, and until Wednesday, most of you had never heard of it.
I have. That distance is one that I know by heart because that’s where my family lives, in the neighboring town of Redlands. That’s where my friends go to school, three miles from the Inland Regional Center, where yesterday 14 people were murdered and 17 more were wounded.
Since that first news alert popped up on my phone yesterday afternoon, time has passed almost surreally. Like many others, I am following the story avidly, sickly fascinated by every update, hoping that the horror would end without someone I know getting hurt.
In the last 336 days, there have been 355 mass shootings. This number only includes those with more than four people killed in each of them — the number climbs dramatically when you factor in all the others. It’s the deadliest mass shooting since Newtown, Connecticut. There’s a certain familiarity to them now, one that I’ll admit even I’ve fallen into. We are no longer surprised to hear that a human being has chosen to end the lives of others.
But none of the other shootings happened down the road from the mall where I shopped for my prom dress. None of the other police responders raided a townhome around the corner from where my dad works. None of the other shootings hit this close to home.
In the hours following this tragedy, after checking and rechecking that my family and friends were safe, after praying for all those whose family and friends weren’t, I realized that the motives don’t matter. There are explanations being flung around as people try to rationalize the violence that took place, as they try to feel safe in their homes and communities. Shootings are hard to explain, though.
Regardless of why they did it, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik wounded my community.
Because of yesterday’s events, there are families who will be celebrating Christmas this year without their loved ones, a 6-month-old girl who will be growing up without her parents. Because of what happened last week in Colorado, or in the last month in Paris and other parts of the world, there are families that will never again be whole and communities who face a long battle to heal.
Obviously, there are a lot of agendas emerging as a result of this tragedy, and my goal is not to promote any of them. I don’t pretend to know what the solution is, or if there is only one. But listen to me when I say this: don’t let what happened in my hometown happen in yours before you take action.