December, A Month of Darkness and Light

December, A Month of Darkness and Light

By Siegrid Raible

It is mid-December in the seventeenth year of the twenty-first century and many of us are, or if we are not at this moment, will be, taking stock of our lives. We will spend the remaining days of the year making a mental list of what we need to do to better ourselves – our New Year Resolutions. For others there will be no resolutions.

In preparing to write this essay I checked the internet to find out how many mass shootings took place in America in 2017. I found the site www.gunviolencearchive.org.  Maintained by a non-profit corporation formed in 2013 the site provides free online public access to information about gun-related violence in the US. As of December 14, 2017 there were 331 mass shooting incidents with 14,756 deaths – almost one incident a day or 42 deaths a day. But numbers alone do not give us a sense of what the loss of even one human life leaves in its wake. If we look at just three of the thousands of lives lost, we get a sense of the hole blown in the lives of the families and communities they lived in.

On October 1, 2017 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, 58 people mostly in their twenties, thirties and forties, were shot and killed and another 489 were injured. I cannot wrap my head around the sheer number of people killed and injured not as a result of war but because they happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, an open-air concert. In the crowd of concert goers was Heather Alvarado; she was a 35 year old mother of three, married to Cedar City firefighter Albert Alvarado. She came from Enoch, Utah, traveling to Las Vegas with her family for a weekend getaway. She will not be making any New Year resolutions.

And then there is the Holcombe Family who live in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a small town with one traffic light, a post office and a population of 360. In a town so small and rural when 26 people are killed and 20 more are injured, everyone knows someone who was killed or injured. Three generations of the Holcombe family were killed in this nightmare which took place at the First Baptist Church on Sunday, November 5, 2017. Crystal Holcombe, a mother of six, together with three of her young children, Greg age 13, Emily age 11, and Megan Hill age 9 died that day. Crystal was 36 years old and pregnant with her sixth child; two other children survived the attack as did her husband, John Holcombe. She will not be making any New Year resolutions.

Then there’s my home town, New York City. In a city of between eight and nine million, my fellow Pasos board member, a hospital administrator, went to work at Bronx Lebanon Hospital on June 30, 2017. On an otherwise ordinary warm Friday afternoon, a disgruntled former employee entered the hospital, took the elevator to the 16th and 17th floors and shot eight people. Dr. Tracy Sin-Yee Tam, 32 years old, was shot and killed. Graduating from Touro College in 2013, she obtained her medical license in December 2015 and had been working at Bronx Lebanon for a little over a year. She lived with her mother and father in Queens and that day had been covering for a colleague who took the day off. She too will not be making any New Year resolutions.

How do you make sense of these deadly acts of violence that occur every day in small towns and large cities throughout the US? Heather Alvarado, Crystal Holcombe and Tracy Sin-Yee Tam, are just three of the thousands of lives lost to gun violence. They are our neighbors, our co-workers, our mothers, our daughters, our wives, our aunts, our sisters. Their lives have value and must not be remembered as mere statistics.

Just as day follows night, let us remember that as December begins with the night encroaching on the day by the end of the month the longest night gives way to a growing light; that sun rises a little earlier and sets a later with each passing day. And so, as the year comes to an end, let us remember all the victims of gun violence – those injured as well as those killed. Let us pledge in the New Year to honor their lives by renewing our resolve (each, in our own way) to put an end to violence.

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