It’s 10 a.m. and I am wandering the marble halls of the Carnegie Museum of Art. Elsewhere in the building are five other students and our professor, having traveled here from Denison on an annual trip for studio art majors. I’m starstruck by Keith Haring when my phone vibrates.
‘Breaking news: Active shooter at Pittsburgh synagogue,’ it reads.
I’d like to say my first response was shock or horror, but in all honesty it was only the faintest surprise. Damn, I thought. Another one? It took a few minutes before I remembered where I was. I quickly pulled up Maps and searched for the synagogue’s location. 1.7 miles. That’s when it really started to sink in.
My phone continued to vibrate as the casualties came in. Eight dead, then ten, then eleven, with several others injured.
I walked outside with another student and we watched in silence, as police cars and ambulances continued to weave between the early morning traffic. I found my classmates and we shared moments of shock, as those around us continued to calmly take in the art. I realized many of them were blissfully unaware, when a security guard overhead us talking and asked what had happened.
With each new shooting, it often feels like we become more and more used to the senseless violence that has become.
It’s become normal as young people to receive that alert on your phone, sandwiched between the latest celebrity scandal and divisive political debate.
It’s become normal for one community to reach out to another, to offer words of comfort from experience to the latest survivors learning to cope.
Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, the senior pastor at Mother Emanuel AME, traveled to Pittsburgh this past Friday, to stand in solidarity with the families and survivors of the Tree of Life shooting.
His own congregation was shot up in 2015 by Dylann Roof, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, entered the church with a deadly plan and .45 caliber pistol.
Like Roof, the Pittsburgh shooter expressed ignorance and hate online. On the social media site Gab, known as the ‘free speech network,’ Robert Bowers proclaimed his favor of Trump and his disdain for Jewish people and organizations. Like them, we as college students are constantly surrounded by updates, newsfeeds, and media; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
And so, it’s important for us as a society, but especially as the rising generation of citizens and voters, to stay conscious and sensitive towards violence and hatred in our society. Without this awareness of injustice, how are we to find the passion to continue to fight for the rights our country was built on? How are we supposed to find space to care about the chronic violence and lived lost around the world, when we haven’t found a way to respond to it in our own states? How else do we keep our own schools and stores and synagogues and churches and nightclubs and apartment buildings and homes and streets, safe? It’s not a problem of race or faith or orientation or nationality, it’s a problem that’s become about our collective humanity.