In my father’s world, order was essential—“everything in its place,” was his motto. Were my father alive today, he would be shaking his head with disbelief at the Orlando massacre, the fact that one man could get his hands on a quick trigger, semi- automatic rifle capable of shooting up to 45 rounds per minute. 49 dead; 53 wounded.
My father was the proprietor of an Army & Navy store. During WWII, sailors, coastguardsmen fresh in port, army and air force servicemen on active duty frequented his tidy store tucked in at the base of Munjoy Hill. The essentials of the uniform, regulation attire— chimney stacks of tan, white, khaki pants, stacks of color coordinated shirts, soft caps, hats with visors and sailor caps, a showcase with bright ribbons, gleaming pins, roll-up belts—could be found, in an instant, by my father.
My father was laconic, never spoke of the war stories he must have heard, never shared his reaction to the stories he read nightly— the war in Europe, the landing at Normandy, the North African Campaign, the atomic blast at Hiroshima.
He was steady, a “provider,” in my mother’s words, of a standard of life which felt secure, a contrast to the air raid drills prompted by an occasional siren warning, the need to huddle under small, wooden desks in case of bombs falling from the sky. There was fear of the enemy afar; we were at war. The doors to the school were open, no fear of an onsite shooter with an automatic rifle, the Sandy hook nightmare, the death of 20 children.
In principal, I am grateful to live in a country where, at any time, I can tune into the internet, radio, television, the alert on my smart phone. In the past few days, I have strived mightily to feel grateful in the face of a hateful man’s bloody attack on Pride Month celebrants at the Pulse nightclub, advertised as “offering live entertainment, tantalizing libations and three rooms for an unforgettable night of fun and fantasy.”
I am saddened by the loss of so many in the prime of life, yet grateful for the stories of courage and care of those who responded in the face of immediate danger. I am grateful to the police and first responders, the doctors, nurses, and health care workers, who stayed the course to tend to the wounded. I am grateful to the promise of love and a network for healing from Orlando’s mayor, Buddy Dyer.
I am grateful for the possibility of pause— the action of Senator Christopher Murphey’s 15 hour filibuster. At the final hour, he said, “It is our understanding … that we have been given a commitment on a path forward to get votes on the floor of the Senate — on a measure to assure that those on the terrorist watch list do not get guns and an amendment … to expand background checks to gun shows and to internet sales.”
I am grateful for the pause of reflection wedded to action; for possibility…