Grief After Tragedy

On Sunday night, a lone gunman killed 58 people and injured 515 more, during the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. I woke up Monday morning, checked my Snapchat stories, and saw the news of this story on every major website. In English class, we talked about the shooting, as it related to our weekend reading of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.

A husband and wife were enjoying the country music festival, when they heard gunshots from up above. The husband got shot in the back while protecting his wife, as they ran out of the concert. His life’s work as a nurse culminates, as he saves one more life: his wife’s.

That story isn’t made up, a fabrication put in this post to add even more tragedy to the United States’ deadliest shooting to date. That is the story of Sonny Melton, a West Tennessean. His wife, Doctor Heather Melton, has spoken out about her husband’s final moments in a heartbreaking testimony.

“He saved my life,” she told WSMV, a CNN affiliate. “I want everyone to know what a kindhearted, loving man he was, but at this point, I can barely breathe.”

This breathlessness can be felt in every victim’s family as they find out about the massacre from articles, workplace conversations, or a lack of a call back. Just like how one finds out about their dad’s car crash from the police knocking at their door at 3 am. Just like I found out about my mother’s death when I woke up on Labor Day six years ago from my uncle, who had to brave a face of me, even though he just found out his sister died.

Whenever a massacre happens, I feel that initial stab in the heart for the 58 families who won’t get to celebrate another birthday, will never get another phone call, or will never see their loved one again. I feel for the 58 funerals filled with tearful eulogies and scratchy black dresses.

I feel for the daughter who has to finish her math homework with dry eyes, as she’s told to “move on with her life.” I feel for the wife who has to go to work, while she budgets for how her husband can have an open casket with a bullet hole through his left eye. I feel for the weeks of articles pinning this shooting on ISIS or a bad father, when all the families want is to bury their loved ones in peace.

Whenever we talk about death, we ignore grief and sadness. As a society, we focus on moving on and waiting for the next tragedy. I hope that those in Las Vegas take the time to mourn and that this time it sparks conversation about gun control or mental health. I hope that no more people have to die to learn how to fix our mistakes, but until then, I hope whoever reads this knows that it is okay to feel bad, to mourn.

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