Dozens of people gathered at Durham’s Judea Reform Congregation on the evening of December 10 to mark lives lost or forever changed by gun violence. Speakers shared personal stories and held up ways elected leaders could and should make everyone safer through sensible measures.
In her remarks to those who attended the candlelight vigil, Council Executive Director Jennifer Copeland said:
Each of us here tonight can probably point to an event that galvanized our gaze on the gun culture in this country. For me it was the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007, in Blacksburg, VA. Before coming to this role at the NC Council of Churches, I was for 16 years a collegiate minister at Duke University. 2007 was right in the middle of my tenure. I was embedded on a college campus with its sense of youthful energy, open-ended futures, and apparent security. I absorbed the trauma of that event as personally as anyone could absorb it who was not personally involved. For those personally involved in acts of gun terror, the horror is unimaginable to me. And still after so many more headlines, what I remember about my emotions that day eight and a half years ago are still raw.
On that day, 32 people were killed, in the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history and one of the deadliest by a single gunman worldwide. Paris was bad—really bad—but it wasn’t a single shooter. Sandy Hook, the event we commemorate tonight had 26 victims, 27 if you count the shooter’s mother who was the first person he shot; and I would certainly count her among that massacre. The total numbers are not the point; the individual loss of life is the point, a loss of life that might be prevented with a few modifications.
We gather tonight to confront a very large number, 90,000 and counting since Sandy Hook three years ago next Monday. Over 3,000 of that number are our neighbors here in NC. We mourn for them anew tonight, just as we mourned in the opening minutes when news of their death reached us.
But I suspect, like me, you all have a single event, perhaps a personal experience that demands your presence on this chilly December evening.
- You may personally be a survivor of gun violence.
- You may be the surviving relative or friend of a victim of gun violence.
- You may be, like me, able to intimately identify with a single site of gun violence.
- You may be a compassionate and empathetic person who absorbs any act of violence personally.
- You may be a human being who cherishes the gift of life and laments its senseless loss anywhere.
We’re all motivated to be here tonight for our own individual reasons. But because we are together, we unite as one body for one reason. We want things to be different. We believe things can be different. Tonight however, we unite on behalf of those for whom it will not be different, those who were the victims of a violence that might have been avoided. May each of us take that truth into our own lives and direct our energy toward making a difference from this night forward. Go in peace.