Not just another mass shooting

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Not just another mass shooting

Elenie Gonzalez, Staff reporter

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I never thought that I would ever have a close connection to one of the worst mass shootings in history. To me though, they’re all the worst because one life lost is too many.

My cousin, his girlfriend and their three best friends were all victims in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting. They were sitting in theater No. 9 when the shooter, who I will not name, opened fire among the unsuspecting crowd. My cousin, who was in the second row near the exit, where the shooter would re-enter after arming himself, was shot twice while shielding his girlfriend. The group managed to escape out the same exit while his jammed gun momentarily distracted the gunman.

I’ll never forget what I was doing while this was happening.

I was sitting in a hotel room during a vacation watching the scene unfold on live TV. I knew that Aurora was the place where part of my family had lived for most of my life, so I couldn’t help but wonder if my cousins were at that midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

I asked my mom if she thought they could be there, but we both came to the conclusion that they probably wouldn’t be at such a late movie.

The next morning, my mom got a call from my aunt informing her that one of my cousins was indeed at the movie, and that he was in surgery while doctors worked to save his life.

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that my younger cousin was a victim of this tragedy and that it was a possibility that he could lose his life at only 20 years old.

Every time news breaks of another mass shooting, my heart sinks, but this past Wednesday, when the latest shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I felt different. My tears were the same, my heart was broken, but I felt angry more than anything.

Why does this continue to happen?

There are many reasons, but it astounds me that lawmakers have literally not taken any progressive action to stop this. At the same time, I’m not surprised that nothing has been done.

It has been inspiring to see the survivors of this latest mass shooting speak up in the wake of this tragedy. If you’ve been paying attention to the news and social media, you will notice that these kids are furious and they don’t seem to be accepting only “thoughts and prayers” sent from the lawmakers and the president.

Students are using Twitter as their medium to communicate their feelings to politicians. Seventeen-year-old student journalist David Hogg has been speaking to every TV news station to make his thoughts heard.

“Ideas are great, but what’s more important is actual action and prudent action, that results in saving children’s lives,” Hogg said to CNN as he urged Congress to do something. 

On Saturday a large group of students, parents and supporters rallied outside the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale demanding action. The words that came from senior student Emma Gonzalez were some of the most powerful that I’ve heard. In fact, several other walkouts, sit-ins, protests and rallies are being planned at several high schools across the country in the coming weeks.

As I mentioned before, something about this shooting felt different. Maybe it was the fact that it was probably one of the most documented shootings on social media, which helped open the eyes of the nation. Or maybe it’s that fact that these students are not going to just accept what happened to them as normal or something that happens all the time. Something about this feels like maybe, just maybe, the tide will begin to turn.

My cousin went from victim to survivor. His girlfriend, now wife, and their friends made it out alive, though one of his friends had to amputate part of his leg due to his injuries.

They were married exactly one year after the shooting to take back the worst day of their lives. The community of Aurora gathered around the young couple to support them and even helped them pay for most of their wedding with several donations of goods, services, food and even the venue.

I was there to witness and celebrate their union, and I will tell you that it was truly a joyous occasion, though they made sure to remember those who did not make it that night. 

Their story was heard all over the news both locally and nationally. It made me proud to see that many knew of their love and devotion. They were never angry that this happened to them and it speaks volumes about the kind of good-hearted people they are. They chose to forgive the gunman and move on with their lives, though they acknowledge that they will never forget the night that truly brought them together. 

Mass shootings have become all too common in the U.S., averaging 33,000 lives per year from the right to bare arms, but it’s something I truly believe can become less frequent. That’s my hope and something I have to believe in because I refuse to let myself become callous to these senseless acts of violence. However, I am realistic in knowing that it’s only a matter of time until the next one.

Follow Elenie Gonzalez on Twitter at @eleniegonz

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