Saugus Strong

There’s a common refrain in a basketball game, “I’ve got shooter”. 

Today Aidan’s JV Basketball team played Saugus High School in the last day of a week long tournament. Saugus High School was the site of the 44th school shooting of 2019.

Some of you may not know, but my nice Jewish boys go to the most loving Catholic school. As is tradition, our team prays privately before each game. Today, Aidan’s team arranged to pray with the Saugus team at half court. It was one of those moments that shows how critical sports are to our human experience and a reminder of why you cry at every sports movie you’ve ever seen. 

All week I saw the Saugus team marching in and out of the gym. As I looked at every face, I wondered “we’re you already at school that fateful morning? Did you hear shots? Did you see it happen? We’re any of the victims in your classes or a friend of yours?”

We knew we’d meet them at some point during the tournament and Aidan lamented all week; what was he supposed to say if he was the man assigned to block out the free throw shooter?

And then it happened. Saugus lined up at the free throw line. I heard a mumble from the court and saw Aidan answer by raising his hand and taping his chest. He wouldn’t say it. 

As I’ve written before, I wholeheartedly stand by my assertion that this epidemic is cured not by gun control but by advocacy for the mental health of our children. 

I’ve said it 1000 times before but I better say it again. Yes, I believe in common sense gun control. Of course this shooter shouldn’t have been able to buy a “Ghost Gun” off the internet and assemble it himself. But also, it would have been great if his father wasn’t an alcoholic that died prematurely and if police hadn’t been called to the family home to arrest the father on charges of domestic abuse against his mother. Oh and maybe if this child would have been on someone’s radar because all of that trauma was sure to affect him.

The pressure, the sadness, the loneliness, the drug abuse, the suicide, the perpetration of violence. When are we going to implement a systemic support network to nurture the emotional development of our youth?

Who’s got shooter?

Thank You For Your Service

This morning we all woke up to the news of another mass shooting. This one is in my backyard, at a restaurant/bar I have been to. Many of the victims yet to be named will be young people; it was college night, 18 and up. Many of the “regulars” hale from local colleges my children’s school sends kids off to, Pepperdine and Cal Lutheran. I am bracing to hear of families I may know directly affected.

This morning I woke up and showered quickly, made breakfasts and lunches, no two alike because they’re picky little fuckers, and rushed to Tyler’s 1st Grade Class Veterans Performance. 

Sadly, this morning’s event and last night’s tragedy are linked.

I think I’m not alone in this. When I hear of a mass shooting, I am enraged at the gun lobby influence and Congress’ ineffectiveness to put sensible gun laws in place. Well, guys, you’re off the hook on this one.

Today is brought to you by a 28 year old Marine who had previously shown signs of PTSD. He legally purchased a .45 Glock pistol and murdered 10 innocent kids out dancing for the evening and one sheriff sergeant who had devoted the last 29 years of his life to protecting and serving his community.

Today, my 6 year old son sang and danced his heart out. His eyes never left his two grandfathers as he thanked them for their service with awkward choreography and 2 out of every 3 words of the songs.

My dad and father-in-law are proud to have served. One was militarily engaged (story for another time), one was in the reserves. Both voluntarily enlisted and they deserve, and enjoy, the reverence afforded to them on this holiday. I know Tyler was proud to have them in the audience too.

But neither of them give me concern that they have PTSD, that they may harm themselves or someone else. What has changed since they served? I certainly don’t have the answer but I sure as hell know that “thank you for your service” isn’t cutting it anymore.

Tyler and his classmates sang of our freedom and safety and choices. These darling little faces in all shapes, sizes and colors, poetically reminded us of the sacrifice others have made so that we can worship freely, vote, assemble and verbally destroy each other on Facebook. I think we take it all for granted. And I know for certain that our government is not taking care of our veterans. 

I realize we have a lot of fronts to fight right now but I believe veterans deserve better. Better because they served. Better because their families also sacrificed. And if it’s the only thing that motivates us, better because they are bringing the wars back to our shores. PTSD is the root of epidemic levels of veteran drug abuse, unconscionable homelessness and now mass shootings. 

There has been a trend in recent years not to exhaustingly name the shooters. This one should be different. We will come to understand that Ian Long was a victim of his mental illness. I’ll be surprised if it’s not directly connected to his service as Marine. My wish would be for Congress to fund a mental health initiative in his name for veterans. One that provides therapists immediately upon re-entry and with benefits that never run out. That’s how we can thank our military for their service.