This afternoon I will take part in a memorial service at the Florida State Capitol for the 17 students slain at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School one year ago. Here, more or less, is what I plan to say:
There was at time when February 14 meant fun, intrigue, and romance, especially a among the young. For thousands of Americans, and particularly for the survivors of the shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School, the meaning of the this day has been forever changed.
Jaclyn Corin, now a senior at MSD High, wrote in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times,
There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not reminded of the shooting. When I hear the sound of sirens or fireworks, I’m taken back to that horrific afternoon. For me, Valentine’s Day will now forever be a reminder of loss.
We gather tonight to remember the 17 lives stolen from their loved ones one year ago, the 17 people who bear physical scars from that day, and the hundreds more whose scars, though invisible, are no less real.
Experts in trauma tell us that “the body keeps the score.” For the rest of their lives, the people affected by that bloody Valentine’s Day will be haunted by the violence inflicted by a single person armed with a weapon meant to be used on the battlefield, not in the hallways of a public school.
The memories of most Americans tend to be short. By now, if you were not directly connected with the victims of that massacre, you might already have moved on, as did so many after a similar massacre of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School just before the Christmas of 2012.
Indeed, if it were not for the determined activism of the students of MSD High, we might not even be gathered here on this grim anniversary.
Standing on the steps of the Old Capitol last year, those students pointed their fingers as us, the generations that preceded them, and cried “Shame.” And they were so right do to so. Too many of us had given up hope of any success in bringing some measure of sanity to the gun madness that has infected our culture.
Those young people “called BS” upon their parents and grandparents. They pulled the curtain away from the unholy of holies and exposed the gods our culture worships –the gods of violence, guns, and hate. They showed us that we had bent the knee to these idols, and sacrificed our own children on their altars.
As we pray tonight for healing and wholeness for those deep, invisible wounds borne by the victims of last Valentine’s Day, let us also repent of the idolatry that set the stage for that terrible loss. Let us turn in a new direction and work ever harder to change not only the laws, but also the culture, that spawned the shooting at MSD High.
Let us forever banish the pernicious slogan that put “God” and “Guns” on a par with one another, for the two never did, and never will, belong together.
And, as we seek healing, from the God of love and grace, let us also repent. Embraced by that God, let us also seek the moral courage to do what is right for our children and our children’s children.