Navy Yard, Summer 2013
When the Washington Post published the “This Town” piece yesterday they included my gmail address at the end, which allowed readers to respond directly. I received a number of thoughtful and thought-provoking responses (funny how non-anonymous commenting mitigates incivility, sweeping generalizations about a stranger, and concern-trolling hyperventilation.) With the writers’ consent, I’m sharing their responses here.
“My husband and I live nearby, where he had to shelter in place. I left at 8:30 a.m., unaware of why hundreds of people were standing in our parking lot, and had to watch it all unfold from my desk at work knowing that I could not go home. Needless to say, I spent the entire day praying that there were not multiple shooters. At 11 a.m, I finally heard that my friend had made it out of his office at Navy Yard and was making his way home. In recent years I have had family and friends pass away, but Monday will probably go down as one of the most heart breaking and gut wrenching days of my life. It is a shame (and I mean that in the most literal sense) that our country didn’t skip a beat. This happened in my community, and your article is the first I have heard mention of the fact that Navy Yard is a community. I thought that maybe it was still too surreal for people to grasp, and once they did, the public outcry would soon follow. I am still waiting.”
(Rachel started the #IAmNavyYard hashtag
to pull together the many people who live in the neighborhood — and there are many. Add your voice to the conversation on Twitter.)
“I’m sure you’ve heard the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If people cared, responsible gun control legislation would have been enacted after Newtown. It’s clear that they don’t. Why would you expect another shooting, or another hundred, to change that?”
“I just read your article and am not even sure of the emotion it caused me to feel. Ashamed? Sad?… I was at Virginia Tech in 2007 when the shooting occurred and since then every national massacre or tragedy has always struck a chord with me and brought me to tears. It all takes me back to that day, how I felt, how I worried, how I wondered why? And how I felt so horrible that a new group of people would be a part of that, would now experience those feelings with every reminder.
It’s sad that we now live in a world where tragedies like these occur so frequently, that on a normal day sitting at work you check your Facebook page and find that so many people’s worlds were just changed forever. Being from Baltimore and visiting DC often I don’t view it as a different world but something about this shooting felt different and I can’t fathom why.
I’m not writing this to explain myself, I’m actually not even sure why I am writing this to you. I just felt like reaching out because I feel so unaffected by this shooting and I feel so guilty because of it. Driving in to work this morning I saw flags at half mast and it took me a minute to figure out why. I shouldn’t feel such apathy about such a horrible thing that happened. 12 innocent lives were taken and we won’t ever be sure as to why. But the past few days I’ve been asking a question of myself… why doesn’t it bother me? When I heard about the Newtown shootings I was a wreck, I sobbed for half an hour that children had to live the last 5 minutes of their life in terror. I’m sure that the people who were wounded and killed this week felt that very same terror, so what makes this different? Where are the DC strong shirts and fundraisers? Why is this any less of a tragedy?
I really hope that you don’t find this e-mail offensive. That is not my intention. I just wanted to send you an e-mail because I am so sad for the families affected, for the coworkers whose work days will never be the same because they lost a friend or are going to be reminded every day they walk into their office of the horrible thing that happened there. I don’t know why the nation barely acknowledged this tragedy, I don’t know why I’ve barely acknowledged it. Are we becoming numb to such random acts of violence? Are we just too scared to admit that one day it could be our town? I really can’t say. I just hope that the citizens of DC, families of the fallen and wounded and the employees of the Navy Yard get the support and encouragement that they deserve.
Thanks for reading, I really enjoyed your article and I just really wanted to send a response. Enjoy this beautiful Friday.”
“Your piece on the national disinterest in the Navy Yard shootings was well-written, and in many ways I agree with your ultimate point. I’m a little biased in that sense because I went to college in DC and consider it a past home. However, I wanted to point out that your analysis of the book This Town is incorrect. Mark Leibovich’s depiction of Tim Russert’s funeral is not a humorous one – in fact, he is expressing his disgust with DC politicians who used Russert’s funeral as a meet-and-greet and place for deal-making. Yes, overall the book depicts that same impression that “Real America” has about Washington. But Leibovich’s point is in the same vain as yours – that humanity seems lost in today’s world, and particularly in DC.”
“I thought I was the only one who was thinking, “Wow, no one checked on me today. Weird.” I had to call my family and friends and actually inform them something was going on. While we were holed up in our offices thinking two gunmen were out in DC on a mission to kill. You really summed it up well. Thank you.”
“Just want to say thank you. That article actually said everything I’ve been feeling since the shooting , I just didn’t have the words to express my feelings. I can say that I was shaken that day and I worried that there might be more shootings, that there was a second shooter(who mysteriously disappeared from the investigation radar??) and that he might come and shoot my building up due to my close proximity to the White House. My family is on the West Coast so at the time of the shooting everyone was still tucked in bed. I did take to social media and FB to give everyone a general statement. Those that I’m closest to responded right away. But everyone else seemed disconnected and some didn’t even check on me. Sad…sad that we are so desensitized.”