BY SUZANNAH CLAIRE PERRY
It happened again.
I checked my phone this Tuesday evening to see that another school shooting had taken place. The fifth one this week. On a Tuesday.
Like many Americans, I’ve become desensitized to gun violence. It seems that every day there’s another story about a far off shooting in a far off place. They’re senseless, they’re preventable, and they’re tragic, but they’re more of a political talking point than a loss of human life when they’re so distanced from my reality.
As I opened my Twitter feed, however, I realized that this shooting was different. The logos, the colors and the hashtags associated with this shooting were all familiar, too familiar. UNC Charlotte may be two hours away, but it’s deeply ingrained in the fabric of the Cary High community. Many of my senior classmates will be attending Charlotte next year, and many Cary alumni are a part of the terrified, grieving Charlotte community. This wasn’t just another school shooting, this was our state, these are our friends, this is our community. This is real.
I scrolled through Twitter and saw videos and pictures of students running away in fear with their hands held high, protected by policemen with big guns on a campus just hours from mine. This is a school, not a warzone. Two students were pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting. Were they two students that I knew?
Everyone that I reached out to on the Charlotte campus was shaken, but safe. I knew I was supposed to feel relieved, but as I scrolled through my Twitter page and read more details and updates from students about the attack, I felt nothing but grief. My friends and classmates in Charlotte’s class of 2023 could just as easily have been gunned down on April 30th 2020. I could have just as easily been gunned down at Cary on April 30th of 2019. These students aren’t people I know personally, but really, they are- they’re all of us. A generation lost to senseless, preventable gun violence. My Twitter page was filled with condolences from activists, chancellors, governors and even presidential candidates. Among those tweets, however was a sentiment that stuck with me as I closed my feed- “stop sending thoughts and prayers when they are not enough”.
With nothing on my mind but Charlotte, the lives lost that could’ve been my friends and classmates and siblings, that could’ve been me, this tweet, a sentiment I’ve seen and agreed with so many times in the wake of other mass shooting tragedies, infuriated me.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for smart, comprehensive gun legislation to prevent the senseless casualties of gun violence. But Charlotte is a real community with real people- students who have lost their friends and classmates, families who have lost their children and siblings, young adults who lost their lives, their future. Gun violence is a serious, addressable issue and we shouldn’t discount the need for legislative change to prevent future tragedies, but the UNC Charlotte community doesn’t need legislation or politicization right now– they need condolences, they need sympathy, they need support. They need thoughts and prayers. Giving thoughts, prayers and condolences in the wake of such a tragedy as this doesn’t make you weak on gun control or politically apathetic, it makes you human, and in times like these, our shared humanity is what allows us to find meaning in grieving the events that we can never change or comprehend.
Tomorrow we can fight for common sense gun legislation, tomorrow we should fight, tomorrow we will fight. But today we must fight for that humanity, we must fight to honor the victims of this shooting not as victims but as human beings. Tomorrow is for change; tomorrow we will have change. But today is for grief, for community, and for humanity; today is for thoughts and prayers, and that’s OK.