This past Sunday the worst mass shooting in the history of our country occurred. Stephen Paddock, a 64 year old man relatively unknown to authorities, opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on those attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
In total, 59 people were killed and another 527 were injured. Beyond that, the attack reopened the debate on gun control and stuck fear into our divided nation once again.
On Wednesday, the Springfield College Division of Student Affairs invited students and faculty to gather at the Peace Pole outside of the Harold C. Smith Learning Commons for a tribute of remembrance and reflection.
The event drew a crowd of about 60 people – a mix of students, teachers, and other staff members. Under the bright sun and with a cool breeze in the air there were moments of quiet reflection and introspection.
Everyone in attendance took a moment of silence for those lost and then there was an opportunity for those in attendance to speak whatever was on their mind. The conversation was touching, thought-provoking, and a good reflection on just how serious things are getting.
The theme of the event became take action. We as a campus, as a community, as human beings cannot continue to let events like this happen.
No more violence, no more attacks, focus on creating change.
David McMahon, the Director of Spiritual Life on campus, was concerned with the problems plaguing our entire country and what we can do to create change. He said, “These moments sensitize us, they reveal some very deep divides about the consideration of gun control, divides about what violence we focus on.”
He broadened the issue further than just what happened in Las Vegas. “There were 32 people shot in Chicago this same weekend,” he said. “Four of them died and this has been happening for a long time. I don’t want to diminish at all what happened in Las Vegas–that is a horrible, horrible thing. All of those lives are valuable, but the lives in Chicago have to matter as well.”
The Vegas shooting gets attention due to the numbers of lives lost, but lives are being lost due to shootings every day and we do not hear about it unless it reaches a point like this.
He went as far as to express how the media handles these events: “I feel like newspaper have a standing headline ready to go: ‘Worst Shooting in American History.’ What is really painful is that nothing has changed.”
Every life matters and by letting this continue a bad example is being set for younger generations.
Gloria Medina is an administrative assistant at Springfield. Her 14-year old daughter found out about the Vegas shooting on her own and she had questions.
“My daughter said, ‘Mom, there were more than 50 dead.’ I just said, ‘yeah, it’s one of the biggest.’ Then she said, ‘Wow, why does this keep happening?’”
What is a parent supposed to say to a statement like that from their young son or daughter? The problem seems to only be worsening, not improving. Parents can only emphasize kindness so much. When kids go out into the real world, that’s not what they see.
The best chance there is for improvement is real, genuine kindness and an attempt to create change in any way possible.
McMahon urged that no act is too small to help.
“If you’re passionate about mental health then work on the mental health issue; if you’re passionate about gun control then work on the gun control issue; if you want to look at poverty or why certain groups and cultures and races are disconnected, now is the time we really have to do some examination. Be impactive for the causes we believe in.”
Medina echoed that stance, “Find someone who provides that love and that kindness that a person struggling might need.”
She believes in the importance of change starting with a person themself and not waiting for someone to urge acts of kindness and positivity.
She added, “My favorite quote is be the change you want to see in the world, That’s what I tell my kids, you see something wrong, be the change. It starts with the person in the mirror.”
All of us can be capable of helping in the smallest of ways.
Medina stressed that the slightest words or actions can force change, “Don’t ever think that whatever you do is to little or you’re too unimportant to do it. If hatred is contagious, then kindness can be contagious too. Being positive can be contagious. Make it happen.”
Our thoughts and prayers remain with those lost in Las Vegas. And Chicago. And anywhere else something like this may happen today or tomorrow. Truthfully, if we do not act now then there is no end in sight.
Do not let this tragedy fade into history. Do not wake up a week from now and have already forgotten about it. Let the feeling last and force change.
To those on the campus of Springfield College and beyond: create the change, take action, become a leader, and build a better world for the present day today and our future moving forward.