By Ashley Lodato
Whatever plans I might or might not have had for my column this week were eclipsed by Sunday evening’s news of yet another mass shooting in the United States, this time in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
I’m not quite sure why this particular shooting hit me so hard. Probably not just because it’s the 307th such shooting in the United States this year—so far. After all, when such massacres occur at an average rate of nearly one per day, they just become commonplace. And Sutherland Springs is “only” the 307th shooting of the year, which makes 2017 to be on track to finish well behind 2016’s total of 483 mass shootings (these numbers are subjective, of course, based on one’s definition of “mass” shooting, but you get the point).
I’m pretty sure my overwhelming sense of helplessness in the face of this shooting has nothing to do with the reality that the Las Vegas concert shooting — in which 58 people were killed and hundreds more were injured — is barely a month old, and yet has pretty much faded from the conversations of all but those who lost a loved one. And I don’t think it was the fact that the youngest victim gunned down at random in First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs was only a year old, although that particular detail is certainly heartbreaking.
No, I believe what strikes me is about Sutherland Springs is that my first thought upon hearing the news was “that could have been us.” A tiny, tight-knit rural community, intersections of family and friendship, a place where that kind of thing would never happen. It might be just the way we’d describe ourselves.
When a mass shooting occurs in a big city, it’s easy to write it off as part of the expected violence in cities, or maybe as a product of the rage that results from constantly living in such close proximity to so many other human beings. But when it happens in a town that shares characteristics with your own, it’s impossible not to imagine the effect such a shooting would have were it to occur locally.
The number of people killed and injured in Sutherland Springs makes up about 10 percent of the town’s population. To put that in perspective, if a shooting of similar scale happened in the Methow Valley, it would involve about 150 dead and injured. All of us would know at least one victim, probably more. Many would lose a family member, possibly two or three. We’d never be the same again. And neither, now, will Sutherland Springs.