Our family attended a Unitarian Universalist church service in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the summer of 2007 to see our daughter perform in “Annie,” a follow-up to a summer experience at the church. A gunman entered the sanctuary and began shooting. He was angry about the church’s welcoming stance toward LGBTQ people, among other issues. He killed two beautiful souls, injured several others, and left all of us to live with the memory of that horrific day, one of so many violent shootings in churches, schools and so many other places.
I also experienced gun violence as a graduate student at the University of California Santa Barbara in the late 1990s. A man came to a faculty member’s office, held her hostage, then ultimately shot himself. The building was on lockdown as the situation unfolded. In the small community where I live now (Maryville, Tennessee), I have known two families who have experienced murder-suicides — one involving a husband killing himself and his wife and one involving a father killing himself and his young son. Too many stories, too many lives lost, too many people living with those traumatic memories and losses.