Thursday afternoon took a tragic turn when a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., put the school under lockdown, instantly sending the community into a panic. As the fatality count has been confirmed at nine people and the injury count at at least seven people, the sense of fear and grief throughout the college town has become mixed with considerable confusion and shock. Many stand aghast that something so horrific and violent could occur in what is being referred to as a small, close-knit, quiet community. This shock that the town of Roseburg is undoubtedly and understandably grappling with as it begins to digest and mourn today's events was perfectly cast into a grim but necessary context in this one tweet. Update: The shooter was identified by the New York Times as Chris Harper Mercer on Thursday night.
The point, which GlobalGrind president Michael Skolnik drove home succinctly and without fearmongering, is that mass shootings are not isolated events. They are not problems that exist in just one type of community. As told by the numbers and maps of where and how often mass shootings occur, all of America harbors a systemic potential for this particular kind of violent event. Cities and towns of all sizes, populated by every varying composition of inhabitants across the socioeconomic spectrum, have found themselves literally in the crosshairs.
The fact is that familiarity breeds security. We all become so used to seeing our everyday surroundings exist in their typically placid states, unceremoniously functioning in their ordinary, wonderfully predictable ways, that any departure from what we commonly experience in our neighborhoods and cities can feel disruptive and unexpected — even if the change is minor, benign, or even positive. But when that sudden shift from normalcy diverts into some unspeakably terrible tragedy, there's no escaping feeling utterly, consumingly shocked that this is happening here, in the same place that's been scene to actual moments of your actual life. Mass shootings — for all the empathy and genuine sadness we feel when they happen anywhere — are always, in our minds, a thing that happens to other people, in other places. Which, to be sure, is the same way they felt before it happened to them, in their place.
But the facts tell a different story, one that doesn't place any of us nor the places we call home outside the scope of "the kind of place where something like this happens." Maybe when we start to truly internalize that truth — that mass shootings are a problem that affects all Americans, and for which all Americans are tasked with finding a solution — we can finally move beyond the idea that there's nothing we can do to prevent these tragedies. Because by now, one thing is undeniably true: The conditions fueling mass shoots are not local. This tweet, and the widespread sentiment it speaks to, implies a clear call to action: Where there is a common thread, there might be a common solution.