Putting a name, a face and a story to a mass murder
By Gil Hanke
Sometimes it would be easier not to know. It would be easier, less painful, more comfortable to convince myself that I did not know any of the people who were murdered in Las Vegas.
It would be less heartbreaking if I could compartmentalize the news about this event to “those people” in “that place.” However, I am thankful, that news outlets of all forms of media are naming each victim, showing pictures of their joyful pre-attacked life, and are telling me remarkable stories of grace and hope and the accomplishments of each pferson whose life was stolen. The stories and pictures with their families make this tragedy real. The stories, the pictures, and their family using their names and relationship make me cry, make me morn what we have lost. “She was the best mom anyone could have.” “My brother dedicated his life to serving others.” “My sister inspired me to become who I am.”
In previous shootings, some news outlets refused to use the name of the murderer and only used the names of those he had killed. Names of victims and their stories make this real. I remember a particular issue of Life magazine during the Vietnam War (January 21, 1972). Each week there was an official published count of the number of American troops who had been killed that week. One week there was only one, and in some of the reporting took a rather bizarre sick tone of celebration that just one US life was lost that week. Life used that moment to tell the life story of that one young man. It became a teaching moment to the nation. To his family and friends, to his high school, and to the community of Charlotte, MI, where he grew up, he was not “just one.” He was (SP4) Jerry N. Duffy (6/13/51-12/12/71). The impact of that issue of the magazine was significant.
Is it painful to hear the reading of all the names of persons who died on 9/11? Does it sadden us to hear the reading the names of the children who were killed at Sandy Hook or people who died in the Boston Marathon bombing? Yes, as it should. On Sunday September 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, we have lost nearly 60 people whose lives were cut short by a monster who did not know any of them. They were innocent. The stories of their lives told by their families break our hearts. Will that brokenness lead us to take steps to prevent another mass murder? When will this ever end? When will we ever learn?