Wednesday afternoon as I was driving back to Chicago from Indianapolis news broke that it had happened again: another school shooting. Multiple people dead, multiple people wounded, several in critical condition. The reporters described the scene as "chaotic" while law enforcement officers attempted to aid the wounded and remove survivors to safety. At the end of the on scene update, the news anchor noted, "…and President Trump tweeted his condolences."
I have been interim president at McCormick for less than eight months. In that time, I have shared my thoughts with you on the racist violence and killing in Charlottesville, and the mass killings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs.
And now, here we are again. This time it is Parkland, Florida. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We now know that 17 students, staff, and faculty were killed. As of Saturday, it appears that all those wounded will survive.
Prior to Wednesday, Parkland and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School might have been known to some of you as the hometown and alma mater of Chicago Cubs first baseman, Anthony Rizzo. Anthony is both an All-Star baseball player and first-class human being. He is a cancer survivor who dedicates himself to kids with cancer here in Chicago, in his hometown of Parkland, and across the country. He, too, sent a tweet as the news broke. He, too, offered prayers for his high school, but he did something our president sadly, and predictably, did not: he called us to act. He called us to change, and he called us to love. Later, he left spring training in Arizona and boarded a plane to Florida so that he could offer whatever comfort he could to his community. He spoke at a candlelight vigil Thursday night in Parkland that was attended by an estimated 8,000 friends and neighbors. Here is a link to Anthony's brief, but emotional, remarks.
Anthony Rizzo reminds us that words are not enough. And, while he acknowledges that he may not have answers to the questions we are all asking, he urges us to act.
If Anthony's words are not enough, I ask that you watch the following video of Jaime Guttenberg's dad, Fred, who also spoke at the vigil. Fourteen-year old Jaime was one of the students killed on Wednesday. I urge you to watch the video several times, to hear his pain, to hear his anguish, and to hear his love.
Like Anthony Rizzo and Fred Guttenberg, I don't know that I have any answers that we, as a country, have thus far failed to find. This I do know: change is possible. It will be hard, it will take time, perhaps a long time, and it will take the hearts, hands, and minds of many. Who among us is truly prepared to undertake that effort?
Will we do like Anthony Rizzo, Fred Guttenberg, the countless families of victims of gun violence and commit to the effort, or will we surrender ourselves once again to empty tweets, rhetorical resistance, and those who say this is not the time or place?
It does not appear that the students who survived the attack at their school are prepared to surrender. Since Thursday night's vigil, students have organized and are raising their voices to end this violence and to ban assault weapons. How might we join them?
As we consider next steps, there are immediate concerns that we can address. For now, here is a link to UNICEF USA that offers several ways we can support the Parkland community and move beyond prayers.
May God hold close those lives cut short, may God give peace and comfort to all who mourn their loss, and may God give us the courage and persistence to bring change. Amen.