When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, I cried every morning at 7 a.m. for a week. Like clockwork, every day, I would get up and send a summary of the latest death reports and a list of local officials affected by the storm to my boss at the White House. With time, though, I overcame the grief that came from reading and summarizing countless stories about people losing homes, friends losing friends, and families losing their loved ones. And then came Sandy Hook.
On December 14th, my boss walked into the small office I shared with another intern and asked me with a distinct urgency to prepare a bio of the Mayor of Newtown, Connecticut. Thinking nothing of it, I sent the bio off and returned to my desk. As updates about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School began to filter in, however, I realized it was the beginning of what was going to be a very long day. Without warning, and somewhat unconsciously, I once again began to cry for those whose lives, small little town and local representatives were things I was responsible for compiling from afar, and whose pain and despair I could not help but feel.
In the weeks that followed, however, this despair was replaced by hope, as I watched officials from all over the country – and from both parties – tell our office that they shared in the President’s sentiment: something had to be done. And so, many months later, long gone from my internship and hoping that the emotions I felt had been shared by our lawmakers, I looked forward to a day like this last Wednesday, when the Senate had the opportunity to codify what 90 percent of Americans support and believe is already law: mandatory universal background checks.
To the surprise of few, however, this reasonable, bi-partisan bill failed. And so, many months after the terrible tragedy I was forced to respond to, I watched as the President announced the bad news: Wednesday was a shameful day in Washington. And so, once again, many months after the terrible tragedy to which I was forced to respond.
I do not have a friend or relative who has been killed by gun violence. I cannot begin to understand the pain of such a loss, and I am devastated for those individuals who have.
More than devastated, though, I am fearful. I fear that we will never have meaningful, reasonable gun-control legislation in this country. I fear that our representatives will continue to vote with their interests rather than their conscience. I fear that there will come a day when I have no more tears to shed for the victims of tragedies such Sandy Hook, and I fear that we will somehow all forget the 20 children who were gunned down in their classrooms.
But while I am afraid, I am determined. And unwavering. And motivated. And if you share in this feeling, I urge you to speak up, write and call your representatives, have these conversations with your peers. With your voice and mine and those of the millions in this country who hope for meaningful change on this issue, we may yet still be able to honor the countless souls who have perished at the hands of gun violence.
Matthew Colford ‘14