Friday, February 23, 2018

This could happen to our community

With the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida claiming the lives of 17 people, we can’t help but think about those who have been lost to such violence. After each of the shootings in the United States, our local community showed support to the survivors. My colleagues and I have often reported on vigils remembering the victims and protests from both sides of gun control.

A radio host said the shooting hit home for her because she was picking her children up from school when she heard about the Florida school shooting. She said she wanted to protect every child that she saw, and I later heard many of my friends who are teachers share similar thoughts. My friends have become prepared to hide their students and risk their lives to save their students from an intruder. 

It’s scary that we have to realize that this could happen in our own communities and our own schools. I can’t help but think about that every time we hear about mass shootings on the news. Downingtown Borough Councilman Phil Dague summed up what I think about every time I’m in the newsroom watching the TV news and reading breaking news alerts about such shootings.

“As I’ve watched the news reports on the aftermath of what happened in Sandy Hook and most recently in Florida,” Dague said, “the one thing that strikes me the most is, I look at the people, the parents, the survivors and it just reminds me that this could be our community. It scares the hell out of me.”

Photo by Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP - Maria Creed is overcome with emotion as she crouches in front of one of the memorial crosses at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, that were placed for the victims of the Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Creed's son, Michael Creed, is a sophomore at the school. 

I reported on how Jennifer Hubbard, who lost her daughter Catherine in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, spoke in Malvern in 2017 about how her faith has helped her to trust God. As a Christian myself, I was encouraged by how she relies on God. As we listened to her share stories about raising Catherine, many of the audience members laughed. We felt like we could get to know Catherine. When Hubbard talked about life after the shooting, many people started to cry.

When I asked one of our photographers how it was to report on the Sandy Hook funerals and vigils, he thought for a moment and said, “It would have been harder if I had kids.”

I attended a journalism seminar about reporting on traumatic events, and many editors mentioned that the journalists became emotionally exhausted after writing about one funeral after another in Connecticut. Many of them didn’t have time to decompress between services and deadlines.

After the Pulse Night Club shooting in Florida, I read about therapy dogs visiting the local newsrooms to help ease the reporters who were on scene of the mass shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 58 others. The shooting story didn’t end there and local reporters continued to interview eyewitnesses about what happened. When the media learned the names of the deceased, the reporters did stories that focused on honoring the memory of each victim. The funerals followed with many receiving local media attention. Protests for better gun laws often follow and again receive media coverage. But it often stops after that until the next mass shooting.

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