WASHINGTON, September 19, 2013 — On Monday September 16, Washington witnessed its first mass shooting event since the D.C. Sniper. Twelve individuals as well as the shooter lost their lives at the Washington Navy Yard, “The Quarterdeck of the Navy.”
While the motives and the means of the killings are only beginning to be examined, and the dust has only begun to settle, many in D.C. are trying to make sense of it all, many are trying to move on, and many are looking for anyone who will listen and help them get through this tragedy.
For that last group, it seems that the surge of national support that so many expect after a tragedy like this strikes has not yet arrived. And many wonder why.
After the Virginia Tech shooting, there was an outpouring of national support. “We are all Hokies” signs went up all over Facebook.
After the Boston Marathon bombing, Boston Strong cries rang out all over the country.
After the Aurora massacre, several groups launched “Pray for Aurora” sites.
After Newtown, there was a staggering amount of public support, and rightly so considering the enormity of that tragedy.
Here in Washington, however, it is business as usual. As of now, there is no national D.C. Strong movement, there is no national call to raise money for the wounded and the families of the dead. There is only a call for more gun control, while the people of Washington are expected to push on with life. The bottom line is, there are people in the city who feel abandoned, and there are those in this city who are simply too numb to grieve in the first place.
This shooting hits close to home for D.C. residents, because everything is close to home here.
There is a national perception that the Washington Navy Yard is some government facility cordoned off and surrounded by barb wire. No, it is 3.5 miles from the White House, 1.9 miles from the Capital Building, 2.8 miles from the Washington Monument, three miles from the Jefferson Memorial, 2.5 miles from Union Station, and 1.3 miles from the Library of Congress. In between all those miles are bars, houses, churches, temples, mosques, colleges, middle schools, high schools, day care centers and museums.
This is where D.C. lives, breathes, works, and plays. The Navy Yard is where our friends work, the Waterfront is where they go to happy hour. Nationals Stadium, 1.1 miles away, is where they watch their games. This is not some government facility where giant steel doors guard an underground mountain passageway, this is not a place where faceless government drones hack out an existence under the watchful eye of the government. This is a place where the people of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia work, and they work to help keep the United States Navy in the best fighting condition that they can.
But D.C. is no stranger to homicides or violence. In 2012, there were 88 homicides in the District, and in 2011, 108. As of today, D.C. has 80 open homicide cases, up 33 percent from this time last year. Just across the river from the Naval Yard there have been seven homicides in 2013. In neighboring Prince George’s County in 2011 there were over 80 homicides. It is not difficult to find someone in D.C. who has not heard gunshots outside of their window, had their car broken into, been mugged, or been assaulted. It is not difficult to find someone in D.C. who is faced with crime on a daily basis. Perhaps it is this constant barrage of violence, being surrounded by murder and death at a rate that puts the city at number eight on the most dangerous cities list that makes D.C. incapable of grieving the way the rest of the country grieves.
Though we have not suffered the simultaneous deaths of 12 people within our boundaries in a very long time, not a week goes by without seeing a tragic news story of one or two people being gunned down, and that desensitizes all of us.
Perhaps D.C. is suffering from the same national fate as Ft. Hood in Texas. Ft. Hood is basically in the town of Killeen, Texas. Ft. Hood is 4.1 miles from the Killeen City Hall, not out in the middle of the Texas desert. They received no “Ft. Hood Strong” support, there were no concerts to raise money for the families of the victims, nor is the government providing the families with benefits due a soldier who died in the War on Terror. Where is the call for aiding the victims of the Navy Yard shooting? Where is the call to hold concerts, set up charities, and make donations to these families? And why does the predominant outrage over this event concern itself with the type of gun the shooter used? Ft. Hood deserves better, and DC deserves better.
D.C. will go on. We have dusted ourselves off, and we will continue to live our lives the way we are expected to. But perhaps that process would be easier if the people of D.C. knew that the rest of the Nation was behind them, and that they had not already moved on to discussing how new gun control measures could have prevented this when the city of D.C. has yet to bury our dead. Perhaps the people of D.C. would be able to grieve if they knew that they were getting the same love, and the same support that the nation so readily and willingly bestowed on Boston, New York, Newtown, Aurora, and Blacksburg.
Until then, we ask everyone to take a moment to remember the dead, and we ask you to keep us all in your hearts.
From the city that is, has been, and will always be, DC Strong.
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