Yesterday there was a shooting at Seattle Pacific University (SPU). It’s a campus that sits in the fun and quirky neighborhood of Queen Anne Hill just a stone’s throw away from downtown. American gun violence again came to the surface and this time it was a little too close to home.
There are a few four letter words that I’m sure have slipped out of people’s mouths in response to this incident. Yesterday as I learned about the shootings I was tempted to blurt one out myself as we called Mom, Dad, Mom, Dad, cousins. They’re all safe, but as the dust settles from the incident, there’s only one four letter word that’s stubbornly stuck in my heart:
As a born and raised Northwesterner who never thought gun violence would strike a Pacific Northwest college (much like my alma mater Pacific Lutheran University), I respond with hope as I see Seattle U. students share their love with the SPU community on Twitter.
As a cousin-in-law of a June 2014 graduate who should be jumping for joy during graduation week and is instead probably giving out hugs and consolation to her classmates, I respond with hope.
As a daughter of two SPU graduates who fell in love on the very campus that saw senseless bloodshed yesterday, hope stubbornly resurfaces as I think of the love they have shown me, my sisters, and our spouses every day.
As a young person who reads that the person who courageously stopped the perpetrator was a 22-year-old student, I am filled with pride and hope.
When Columbine happened I was 12 and in middle school in Issaquah, 20 minutes east of downtown Seattle near our home. It was scary but it didn’t have major impacts on our school system as a whole. Then I remember hearing about the shootings at Sandy Hook that killed a class of first graders, the same grade my mom taught when she was a teacher in the Issaquah School District. And then I remember hearing on the news about the shooting at University of California-Santa Barbara, where a high school friend graduated from a few years ago, and a cousin, at the time, attended a private college nearby. A shooting in Santa Barbara? Santa Barbara. You’ve got to be kidding me. A gorgeous location in beautiful Southern California. Come on, this is the west coast, saturated with liberals and Sonoma wine and indie music. This isn’t where gun violence happens, is it?
Then tragedy once again struck a campus, this time, 30 minutes from my house. My house. My home. My people. These are my people. That’s where my parents met after my Dad packed up and moved his drums from Burien to SPU, and my mom flew down from Anchorage on a scholarship to find a brighter future. They met there and Mom especially found opportunities, friends, faith, and love. Dad and her found love and a vision in each other for a future together on that very campus – a campus that yesterday saw violence, destruction, and death. How does this happen? How did this happen? Who came into our house and violently destroyed life?
Unfortunately it’s not that easy. We can try to differentiate the bad people from the good people, but in truth, the bad and the good lie in all of us. Call it what you want – sin, bad, ugly, pride, darkness, abuse of power. But trying to answer, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” leaves me spinning in circles. Because we’re just as connected to the victims as we are the perpetrators. And yet I beg someone to find the answer.
For moments like these where no question nor answer seems to address a senseless situation like this, we can turn to words God tells everybody, everywhere:
I am hope for all who are hopeless,
I am eyes for all who long to see.
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light,
Come and rest in me.
Do not be afraid, I am with you.
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me
I will bring you home;
I love you and you are mine.**
God says to the SPU community: I love you and you are mine. God says to the families of those deceased and in the hospital: I love you and you are mine. God says to the shooter: I love you and you are mine. God says to those grieving from great distances: I love you and you are mine.
I am hope for all who are hopeless.
*Evan Bush, “Inspiring moments after the Seattle Pacific shooting tragedy,” Seattle Times, http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2014/06/inspiring-moments-after-the-seattle-pacific-shooting-tragedy.
**David Haas, “You Are Mine,” found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: MN) Augsburg Fortress, 2006. 581. Based on Isaiah 43.