I learned of the shooting at Seattle Pacific University through a text from my sister.
She asked whether I was safe, whether my friends were safe, told me about the victims (thought to be seven), the fatalities (none at that point), the gunman (in custody). No one died, I thought. This won’t be a big deal. It can’t be.
A few hours passed. SPU freshman Paul Lee died in the hospital. One perpetrator was sought, then two, then one again. My roommate and I poured wine and busied ourselves as best as we could.
The next day, a gunman was on the edge of Seattle U’s campus.
There have been 34 school shootings in the United States in 2014 so far. They’ve become so frequent that it’s hard to even know how to react. Some measure of conscious denial of the problem has become part and parcel of college—if we thought, really thought, about how this could happen to us, we may be unable to function.
Yesterday’s shooting was tragic on so many levels. The SPU community lost one of its own, and several students are beginning a recovery process that’s certain to be both physically and emotionally difficult. The nation was shown once again the senselessness and selfishness of mass violence, as well as the ineffectiveness of our gun laws. For many local students, it also represents a reality that is both devastating and unfair.
The specter of gun violence is no longer a vague, distant, looming thing. It’s literally at our gate. The appearance of a gunman at 10th and Union was a sobering reminder—as if we needed another—that this threat is real and immediate, and our classrooms will not necessarily keep us safe.
“Education is about creating the person who makes the choices.” This is what Professor Carol Kelly told my class just minutes before the public safety announcements flooded our inboxes. The classroom should be a haven where we can all learn to be our most realized selves—free of judgment, free of boundaries, and free of fear. As our liberty is increasingly threatened, our ability to reach our fullest humanity is threatened in tandem.
The entire city bears, and will continue to bear, a deep sadness in the days and weeks to come. We here at Seattle U mourn alongside SPU, for both the life and the collective innocence that was lost yesterday. As fellow students, we will all engage with this tragedy in our own complex ways. I would like to personally thank the students, faculty, and staff who organized Friday afternoon’s vigil at the chapel, which was a much-needed opportunity to not only to stand in solidarity with SPU, but to offer solace and support to one another as we try to make sense of the senseless. Let’s continue to do both.
Be kind to one another, and be well.