I woke up to a barrage of Tweets about Orlando. It took me a few seconds to figure out why. Once I did, my first thought was, “Oh no. Not again.” Every mass shooting takes me right back to December 2012; my daughter was 6 months old when 20 children and 6 staff were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Prior to that, mass violence was something in the background that flashed on TV screens in waiting rooms or went viral on Facebook but never really hit home because I didn’t let it. After Sandy Hook, things changed and hurt, like I had been punched in the gut. How was I supposed to reconcile children being shot in their first-grade classroom with my new responsibility of caring for a tiny vulnerable child?
That is where my mind went when I heard about Orlando. To the victims and their families. To those in a place they thought was safe. To the perpetrator and his family. And inevitably, to the weapons. When will our leaders feel compelled to fix loopholes that allow easy access to weapons of unnecessary destruction? My cynical side thinks that if first-graders aren’t worth strong gun control laws, no one is. But will this be the time, after what some call the biggest mass shooting in the history of the U.S.? One journalist asked: “Would these mass shootings and killings be any less serious or tragic if they weren’t the deadliest?” I say unequivocally, no. Every life matters and every individual is someone’s child, brother, sister, partner, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, co-worker, father, mother, friend.
I’ve only learned how to be an ally as an adult, or indeed what that even meant. I grew up in a conservative community with conservative schools that, even in 2016, have been accused of discrimination against those in the LGBTQ+ community. I think of our Muslim brothers and sisters, who are already victimized and face discrimination, even by those who claim to speak for the majority but fill their speech with vitriol, blatant lies, and calls for violence.
But as scary a place as this world is, I choose hope. As an academic librarian, I am surrounded by a profession focused on service, social justice, and equality. It is a privilege to work with college students every day who give me hope for the future. They are energetic and caring, and demonstrate an embrace of diversity that is improving our campuses and our communities every day. They are our future leaders, and indeed are showing us how to lead already.
At first I told my fellow IRDL scholars that I didn’t have anything to say online about the Orlando massacre. I just didn’t have the words. But I realized that if allies don’t speak out in support of all those who are vulnerable, who will?
Anne Marie Gruber
Instruction & Liaison Librarian
2016 IRDL Scholar
This blog post is part of a series of IRDL Scholar responses to the shooting in Orlando, FL, on 6/12/2016.