Yesterday we had the school shooting. Today we’ll name the victims. We’ll create a makeshift memorial, with teddy bears and balloon hearts, with heartfelt handwritten notes and painfully sincere poems, with photos of the dead before they became the generic dead. Today we’ll swear to remember them and keep them in our hearts and prayers forever.
“To the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High School – we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever…” — President Comrade Donald J. Trump
Like so much of what Trump says, this isn’t true. We won’t be with the victims and their families forever. Tomorrow — maybe later today — we’ll start the forgetting.
Not the parents, of course. Not their family members and their friends. They actually will remember the dead and grieve for them. But the rest of us? Well, school shootings are like buses; another one will come along pretty soon. Most of us will retain a better memory of the last bus we took than we will of individual victims of any school shooting.
We’ll forget. That’s just a fact. Back in December of 2013, on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, I made a similar comment about another school shooting victim.
Yes, a 17-year old girl got shot, but if it weren’t for the Sandy Hook anniversary thing, the national news media would probably have ignored it. Still, they did what they could with what they had. They emphasized the Cute White Girl Who Loved Horses angle, making her a classic innocent victim. They found some really nice high school photos of her. What was her name? Kaylee? Claire? Callie? Something like that — pretty sure it starts with a ‘k’ sound. She got shot in the head. With a shotgun. Nobody wants to hear about that. And nobody other than her friends and family will remember her in a couple of weeks. Same with what’s-his-name, the school shooter. Karl.
Her name was Claire Davis. She died ten days after she was shot. She and the shooter were the only physical casualties of that event. In the discussion that followed that post, I was taken to task by the mother of one of Claire’s classmates.
“Claire died and a entire community cares. My daughter was in that school. Many students will have post traumatic stress disorder due to this shooting. We care about this and it has nothing to do with the media. You came across very callous in this post and whatever you tried to communicate got lost in that.”
That, sadly, is exactly what I tried to communicate: that we’ve become callous, that we’ve become numbed by the sheer number of mass killings. There are so many mass killings and so many victims — so many dead, so many wounded and maimed — that as a nation, we can’t keep track of them. We identify them as individuals shortly after they’ve been killed; we give their names, we mention something specific about them in an effort to stress the magnitude of the loss, we try to say Look, this is a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life, and now that potential is GONE.
But the reality is there are just too many of them. Ten yesterday, seventeen a few months ago, three a few days before that, fifty-some in Las Vegas, a dozen here and there and they’re all inevitably clumped in the public mind as generic victims. We don’t remember them. We can’t.
But we should try.
This is Claire Davis. She was seventeen years old. She was a student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. She loved horses. She was a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life. She was shot on December 13, 2013 and died ten days later.
Her name was Claire Davis.