Reflections on the Tragedy in Virginia Beach

by Bishop John T. Tarrant

Laquita C. Brown, Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Crustinger Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Katherine A. Nixon, Richard H. Nettleton, Christopher Kelly Rapp, Ryan Keith Cox, Joshua O. Hardy, Michelle 'Missy' Langer, Robert 'Bobby' Williams and Herbert 'Bert' Snelling were all murdered last Friday by a disgruntled employee of the City of Virginia Beach. They are real people with real lives, families and friends. For the most part we, as a Nation, have just moved on. We tend to do that. It used to take a week or so, Sandy Hook a bit longer, but now by two or three days we’re off to the next news story.

The families of the victims of this violence have not “moved on.” Not this week, next week or even next year. For them this is not a “news story.” For them, it is a harsh reminder that we live is a deeply broken world, a broken Nation. A Nation that would rather talk about who is traveling to England with the President than the over 17,000 murders and over 40,000 suicides that take place in the United States each year. I suspect we do not talk about these hard issues because we, as a Nation, have no will to do anything about gun regulation, mental illness, poverty and the other systemic issues that take almost 60,000 lives each year in this country.

Perspective: On December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor was attached by the Imperial Japanese Air Service, 2,403 lives were lost. On September 11, 2001 in terrorist attacks 2,996 people were killed. Both of these were horrific events. Each of these events brought this Nation to war. We could not stand by while our citizens were being killed. We had the "will" and would not let the slaughter continue.

Each year nearly 60,000 Americans die from either murder or suicide. Their families and friends do not simply move on. Lives are shattered; hearts are broken; no day will ever be like the day before they died.  Today is our daughter Amy’s birthday, she took her own life last year on May 8th. We have not gotten over it, nor will we ever

Jesus said he came that we “may have life, and have it abundantly.”He came that we might be freed from the fear of having the difficult conversations that prevent a society from achieving “abundant life” for more of her residents. Our faith calls us to have honest and open conversations around gun violence, mental health, poverty and the value of each life to the One who created all life.

So, today I remember Amy. I remember Laquita, Tara, Mary Louise, Alexander, Katherine, Richard, Christopher, Ryan, Joshua, Missy, Bobby and Bert. God have mercy on our souls, if we simply ‘move on’ and forget the value of each life lost to an act of violence.