The names aren’t mentioned much now, 55 years later, but they should be: Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair. On Sept. 15, 1963, they were killed in a Birmingham church when it was dynamited. Right after Sunday school, they were innocently changing into choir robes.
The anniversary of their deaths prompts us to ask whether we’ve improved the climate for children in the US. It’s also a unique opportunity to write about gun violence when there hasn’t been a recent school shooting. Typically, concern surfaces then, and ebbs until the next tragic event. But maybe it should be a constant irritant on the national conscience.
Perhaps we should continue to remember the brave Emma Gonzalez, who had to run past her friends bleeding on the floor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. After she spoke at Washington’s March for Our Lives on March 24, she remained on stage, silent for the 6 minutes and 20 seconds it took for the Parkland shooting to occur.
Her stillness contrasts with the empty political blather which hasn’t yet achieved gun control anywhere near that of most other nations. Emma and other students had done their homework: “Australia had one mass shooting in 1999, then introduced gun safety, and hasn’t had one since. Japan has never had a mass shooting. Canada has had three; the UK had one. They both introduced gun control.” As she said to legislators and the president, “For shame!” The exorbitant amounts of money they’ve taken from the NRA apparently blind them to the inestimable value of one human life.
Our children–bright, vulnerable, filled with potential—are our national treasure. They may resolve the ecological crisis. They may find cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and heart disease. Their generation may learn to solve human problems without wars. But only if we protect them. Only if we make their schools safe. Only if we make gun control a pressing issue in the November elections. And then, vote. Our doing so seems a small way to honor Addie Mae, Carole, Cynthia, Denise.