Another day, another mass shooting. Shots rang out. Schools went on lockdown. A “shelter in place” order was issued — this time for parts of Southeast Washington, D.C.
It was only a matter of time, really, before the headlines reached the nation’s capital. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, Washington. The list keeps growing and at an alarming rate.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 16 shooting which saw 12 people killed on a Monday morning while at work, America grappled with another act of a lone gunman and more senseless loss.
Yet there was almost something perfunctory in the sadness. The special reports, the press conferences, the headlines — so terrible, so tragic. Yet we’d seen them all before. And history assures us we will see them all again.
Even as the news of shots fired in the military base was breaking, the satirical news source The Onion was already commentating.
“Location of Newest Mass Shooting Revealed,” a headline read. “It’s A Navy Yard, Authorities Confirm.”
A co-worker called the story “tasteless,” and that it most certainly was. But The Onion also simply was expressing the mind-set of many Americans confronted with yet another shooter on a “rampage.” Not this, we thought. Not again.
President Obama, in brief comments a few hours after the shooting, too, said: “Yet another mass shooting.”
Repetition naturally leads to complacency. The next generation is growing up in a world where school lockdown drills and emergency evacuation plans are protocol. They’ll never know any differently. These are, after all, the kids of 9/11.
Call it what you will — a gun control issue, a mental health issue, an issue of the secularization of the country — but this is where we are. And we’re used to it.
Maybe that’s why I so appreciated Dr. Janis Orlowski’s press conference the afternoon of the shooting. Dr. Orlowski, the chief medical officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, after a day of briefing the press on the medical status of victims, was asked what had stood out to her. In that moment, she couldn’t hide her emotion. No complacency existed.
“You know what, we see a lot of trauma,” she said. “But there’s something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries...
“I would like you to put my trauma center out of business,” she said. “I would like to not be an expert on gunshots.”
Dr. Orlowski is fed up, and so should we all be. The shootings at the Navy Yard cannot be just one more in a long list. We cannot be complacent.
So we must continue Pope Francis’ call for prayers for a peaceful world. Not just in Syria and the Middle East, but here at home. In our schools. In our workplaces. In our families. Peace begins here. And it needs to begin now.