Over and Over and Over Again
It happened again.
That phrase has become a platitude. Three empty words we end up typing and speaking every few weeks, every few days.
Funerals began this week for 10 people killed in Buffalo, New York. Ten lives ended by an 18-year-old with a rifle. Someone who drove a long distance to cause death. Mass death. To kill as many Black people as he could.
Not even 24 hours later, a 68-year-old walked into a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods, California, and shot six people. He killed one.
Before those killed could even be laid to rest, on Tuesday, it happened again.
This particular “again” was at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, reminiscent of the slaughter of children in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
Once again, children were murdered. Once again, the killer used a rifle.
The killer was an 18-year-old who’d just legally become an adult, who’d just become legally eligible to purchase a rifle. He bought two of them, shot his grandmother, then set out to kill as many people — as many children — as he could.
Like most of you, I am tired. I am tired of typing things like “it happened again.” I am tired of hearing and seeing politicians fill the airwaves and their social media channels with “thoughts and prayers.” Those thoughts, those prayers, they’re useless to the dead.
I am also tired of watching heartbroken people grieve for their dead loved ones. And, frankly, I’m scared. Terrified that it could someday be me who is grieving for someone I lose to an unstable person with a gun.
And that’s the thing. The next “again” could hit any one of us. And it could happen anywhere. A supermarket. A church. An elementary school. Any place that our loved ones go every day. Offering thoughts and prayers will not prevent this. It will not reduce the odds of it happening to someone I love; to someone you love.
And how close do we come to the next “it happened again” each day?
On the same day children were murdered at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, two teens in New Mexico brought guns to Albuquerque-area high schools.
First, a Cleveland High School student in Rio Rancho was arrested with a gun on campus. And later in the day, in ABQ, a gun was located inside a student’s backpack in the Volcano Vista High School parking lot. That student was also arrested. Two potential instances of “it happened again” avoided.
But in Albuquerque on Saturday, someone fired 11 shots toward the Top Golf building. It happened after a group of people were asked to leave. They did. But then, from a vehicle parked on a nearby road, one of them fired shots toward the building. One round struck the building, but thankfully, this time, no one was hurt or killed.
Albuquerque police are searching for the suspects.
Meanwhile, a 19-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl are in custody, and three others — two 16-year-old boys and one 15-year-old boy — are still sought by police for firing 30 rounds at an SUV as it pulled into an ABQ gas station on March 25. Inside that SUV was 28-year-old Kayla Montaño, her fiancé, and Montaño’s 7-year-old daughter.
Montaño died as a result of being shot. Shot by teens. Teens with guns. Teens who were apparently robbed earlier in the night and, without evidence, assumed the people in the SUV were involved in the robbery, so they opened fire.
They murdered Montaño, injured her fiancé, left a little girl without a mother, and shattered the lives of those left behind.
This awful story is uncomfortably similar to another awful story that I’ve been covering for the Las Vegas Optic since July 6, 2020. That evening, two men — a 29-year-old and a 30-year-old — opened fire on a car filled with teens because they thought the car looked a little like the one driven by someone who’d robbed a drug dealer they worked for.
A 16-year-old girl died.
A 15-year-old boy was shot in the arm.
Another 16-year-old girl was shot in the head. She lived, but to this day, she struggles to remember parts of her life and she needs help from family members to perform everyday tasks.
One of the shooters was convicted of second-degree murder. The other is scheduled to go on trial for first-degree murder beginning July 12.
It’s difficult to put into words how sad, how exhausting all of this is, and I’ve long loved the phrase: When words fail, music speaks. And as I write this, I’m listening to one of my favorite bands, Rise Against.
Randomly, or perhaps fortuitously, the song “How Many Walls” came on as I neared the end. In the song, vocalist/rhythm guitarist Tim McIlrath asks, “How many guns till you feel safe? How many times can we watch this story over and over and over again? And how many years have we wasted, counting the lies that we’ve been fed? For something to change we have waited, over and over and over again.”
The song ends with McIlrath asking “How many lives have been wasted? How many bodies laid to rest? Sick of the lies, the same old story all … over and over and over and over again.”
These tragic stories of people being gunned down, of lives ending, of families grieving, flood our news feeds regularly. Variations follow. Over and over and over again we say “it happened again.” Over and over and over again we demand change, but change doesn’t come because those in power simply wait us out, wait for the next major news event, wait for the pain and the sorrow to fade in hopes we forget about it.
We can’t forget. Collectively, from here on, we can’t just let this fade away and wait for this to happen again because, the next time it happens, it might be you or me who lose everything we love most.
Chile Street Editor