School children in Santa Fe, Texas gunned down.And then explosive devices — including pipe bombs and pressure cookers — found in and near the school.
The horror. Again.
Terrified children run from their schoolrooms into the woods, sit in the brush, hiding until the terror passes. Tears and screaming, chaos and fear. Again.
A tenth grade girl spoke truth to tragedy:
Every school shooting, kids getting killed, innocent kids getting killed.
The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, described the shooting: One of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools.*
Another student spoke of her fear: It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too. I don’t know. I wasn’t surprised. I was just scared.
We acknowledge, God, that the unsafeness of our children in their schoolrooms is our national shame.
And we talk incessantly, God, about what should be done and what could be done, what ought to be done and what must be done.
And we promise our “thoughts and prayers” — empty without our action.
Then we ask you to intervene, God, but we fail to give our own energy and commitment. We refuse to stand courageously and work diligently until we see change. We refuse to storm the offices of our Congressional representatives demanding their promises to address this national failure.
Discussions cover the news channels. Again.
The president says he’s heartbroken and orders flags flown at half staff. Again.
Empty words, God. Again.
Grant us, God, a shield of protection over our innocent children. Give grace and peace to parents, siblings, grandparents, teachers, friends who grieve great loss in this very moment.
Give extra strength to those attending those who are wounded.
And most of all, God, we ask that you ennoble us — every one of us — with the courage and the resolve to seek what is just and right, so that this kind of horrific tragedy will not befall another school, will not terrorize another child, again.
Let us pray with our legs, let us march in unison to the rhythm of justice, because I say enough is enough.”
— A Parkland shooting survivor.
Yesterday you sat in classrooms all over this country. Today you are marching all over this country, all over the world. Teachers, parents and other supportive adults are marching with you. We older folk marvel at your commitment and your resolve. We are proud of you. We cheer you on and pray that your efforts will bring positive change.
You are marching to demand that your lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools. You are relentless and persistent in your quest to end gun violence. You are standing tall, lifting your voices to proclaim “Enough is enough!”
Every day, 96 Americans are killed with guns. Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children between six and seven years old were killed by a gunman, 7,000 children age 17 and under have been killed by guns.
Today, thousands of you have gathered to call violence by its true name. You are calling out the adults. You are confronting the NRA. You are challenging all who put their own self interest above the safety of our children,You are marching today for those who died and those who live. You are marching for the children who will be in classrooms in years to come, little ones who still have the joy of innocence. You are marching for their lives. You are marching for them. You are marching for all of us, and we thank you. Our hearts are with you,
For each of you, I offer this prayer.
God who holds ouryoung in your arms of grace,
Make of us a people who hold our children in the highest esteem, who give them respect and encouragement, who take their fears seriously, who commit ourselves to their safety and protection.
Protect them, God, as they march for their lives today.
Help them to know that their resilience and persistence might just change the world.
Make every city where they march a welcoming place, filled with people that open their hearts to the message our children speak.
Assure our children of the love that surrounds them and of the support that enfolds them. Assure them of our love and respect for them.
Continue to embolden them to demand change.
Infuse them with the courage to stand and the strength to speak truth to power.
Grant them an extra measure of perseverance.
Guide their steps. Ennoble their conviction.
Calm their fears and soothe their anxious hearts.
And may their reward be a world free of violence, communities infused with peace, classrooms that surround them with understanding, acceptance, protection and learning.
For your deep love for our children, O God, we give you thanks.
For your compassion toward our young who have been so deeply harmed, we give you thanks.
For your comforting presence with friends and families who have lost people they love, we give you thanks.
For your tears mingled with our own as we mourn the loss of innocence our children have experienced, we give you thanks.
For your abiding protection and mercy in our violent and frightening world, O God, we give you thanks. Amen.
Organizers of March for Our Lives expect millions of people to participate in today’s marches.
Acting out of their profound grief, students from across the country are fearless, empowered and motivated to speak out today as part of the March for Our Lives movement that was born out of the Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 students and staff members.
President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sent a handwritten letter to the students of Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School commending them for their “resilience, resolve and solidarity in helping awaken the conscience of a nation.”
Today, there are marches in over 800 sites across the country where students are still “calling BS.”
Marches are also taking place all over the world.
Florida students have planned a voter registration effort as a part of the march in Washington, DC.
14,000 shoes placed to tell a very, very sad story.
14,000 shoes laid out so that we will never forget our history.
Seven thousand pairs of children’s shoes were lined up on the southeast lawn of the U.S. Capitol building today in memory of every child who has died due to gun violence.
The 7,000 shoes in the “Monument for our Kids” installment represent every child that was killed by gunfire since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
“We are bringing Congress face to face with the heartbreak of gun violence,” said one of the activists, Oscar Soria. “All of these shoes cover more than 10,000 square feet.”
Though most of the shoes were collected in a two week period, some of those were donated by families that lost their children to gun violence.
May God grant that we never forget this national grief. May our collective mourning bring lasting change.
A Prayer for Protection
Hear us, O God, protector of children.
Hear our prayer of penitence, our confession that we have failed to keep our children safe.
Hear our cries, as we shed tears of mourning for each child we have lost to gun violence.
Hear our cries of grief as we recall every danger that our children face.
Hear our voices shouting, “Enough!”
Hear our voices of commitment that make a sacred promise that we will do what must be done.
And most of all, God, ennoble us to holy action, and make us protectors of children.
We pray in the name of the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Half a century ago, on March 7, 1965, state troopers beat down men and women who were participating in a peaceful march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. That same day, radio listeners around the country might have heard Sam Cooke singing a song he had written and recorded several months earlier, but which could have been describing the “Bloody Sunday” confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.
In “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke moves from bigotry and bloodshed to hope and beauty in barely three minutes. If you listen to the record today, you will hear a story that continues to be relevant. (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wEBlaMOmKV4)
Sam Cooke’s rough, sweet voice — a voice that is blues-born and church-bred, beat down but up again and marching — still rings.
A changs IS gonna come . . .
That message of hope rings out still in these troubling days through the passion-filled voice of Emma González, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as she addresses a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale just days after a gunman entered her school in Parkland and killed 17 people.
A change IS gonna come . . .
We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because . . . we are going to be the last mass shooting. We are going to change the law. That’s going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook and it’s going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most of all the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the student now suffering PTSD, the students who had panic attacks during the vigil because the helicopters would not leave us alone, hovering over the school for 24 hours a day.
If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association. You want to know something? It doesn’t matter, because I already know. Thirty million dollars. — Emma González
A change Is gonna come . . .
Just hours after the mass shooting, other students turned to social media to discuss gun control.
Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns. — Carly Novell, a 17-year-old senior; editor of the school’s quarterly magazine.
We need to do something. We need to get out there and be politically active. Congress needs to get over their political bias with each other and work toward saving children. We’re children. You guys are the adults. — David Hogg, 17, a senior; Stoneman Douglas student news director
Wherever you bump into someone, there is the fear that they’re the next shooter, and every bell is a gunshot. I feel like some change is going to come of this. — Daniela Palacios, 16, a sophomore at another Broward County High School at her first protest.
A change IS gonna come . . .
And it will be our bold and compassionate children who will lead this nation into that change. Like so many Americans, I was disconsolate when watching the TV news of yet another school shooting. But then I started watching the students, and I saw the girl with the buzzcut, Emma González, wiping back her tears, mourning her dead classmates while demanding change.
Like her schoolmates, Emma is in trauma, but she is organizing. She and many of her classmates are directly challenging the donations of the National Rifle Association to Trump and other politicians. There will be school strikes. There will be organized resistance. These young people will not sit in classrooms any more. They refuse to become another tragic statistic. “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks,” said a weeping González.
As I remembered this week what happened at Sandy Hook, at Columbine, at Westside, a school in my own state, I remembered feeling anger and despair. But today, for first time in a long time, I feel hope. I see true leadership as kids are standing up for one another and fighting for their lives.
Let us stand courageously beside these children, our children, and do what we can to create change . . . letters to Congress, phone calls, posts on social media, marches and demonstrations, hand-lettered signs, letters to the editor, VOTING for change. What can you do?
Emma González, Daniela Palácios, David Hogg, Carly Novell . . . and thousands of other children who are crying out, ENOUGH!
The mass shooting in Las Vegas leaves us enraged. And confused. And heartbroken.
Heartbroken describes us best as we find ourselves dealing with an inescapable and horrific truth that our world is not a safe place. Once we take that into our souls, we begin to live life as victims, refugees from all that is good. The television news is filled with the stories of heartbroken people whose loved ones were gunned down at a “fun-filled” event. As people of faith, our lives are interwoven with the lives of the victims and survivors of the Las Vegas tragedy. So yes, although we were not there and did not experience the massacre, we are heartbroken, too.
We are heartbroken because of lives lost. We are heartbroken because brothers and sisters must mourn the death of persons they loved. We are heartbroken because those that survived the Las Vegas shooting now live with relentless survivor’s guilt. We are heartbroken because a healthy family event filled with music violently lost its melody. We are heartbroken because violence reigns in the world. We are heartbroken because we do not have the moral, ethical, spiritual and political will to change the climate of violence through responsible weapon control legislation.
But we have been heartbroken before, far too many times. Orlando, Fort Hood, Killeen, Virginia Tech, UT Austin, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, among others. We have been heartbroken before, and nothing changed. Our broken hearts did not result in courageous spirits willing to persevere, persist and insist on creating change in our culture of violence.
Dan Hodges made this very sad statement in 2015.
In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. Gun control debate. Once America decided that killing children was bearable, it was over.
People of faith lament and grieve, asking God for answers. Like the Prophet Habakkuk who prayed for help in a time of trouble, we cry out to God.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save.
Why do You make me see iniquity,
And cause me to look on wickedness?
Yes, destruction and violence are before me;
Strife exists and contention arises.
– Habakkuk 1:2-3 NASB
I would never presume to know the mind and heart of God, but I imagine that God’s answer to our question, “How long, O Lord?” might sound something like this.
How long, you ask. Long enough for you to stand courageously for what is right. Long enough for you to develop the political will to seek change through advocacy in the halls of Congress. Long enough for you speak truth to power, constantly and persistently until a new day of peace and safety dawns in your nation. Do not cry, “Peace, peace where there is no peace.” Instead cry out, “Change! Change! Change now, because God desires to comfort your broken heart and wills for you a world of safety, well being, and holy peace.”
May God grant us the courage and the perseverance to make it so.