No doubt about it, the young speakers at Saturday’s March for Our Lives were remarkable — passionate, poised, and peacefully political. None disappointed, especially not Emma Gonzalez, the close-cropped senior from Parkland, Florida, who held the crowd, and the news media, in riveted silence for more than five minutes on the stage — the amount of time, she said, that it took Nikolas Cruz to massacre 14 of her fellow students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. Over and over, the students voiced their devastation at the loss of classmates and family members to gun violence, and their unified commitment to change gun laws in this nation.
I had already moved to Washington when Charles Whitman killed 17 people from the University of Texas tower in August 1966, but I clearly remember the horror of that incident, which followed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but pre-dated the assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. What was thought to be an isolated incident actually was a harbinger of things to come. Whitman’s hunting rifle has been supplanted by automatic assault weapons and bump stocks. Whitman’s shooting spree lasted 96 minutes; Cruz’s took six. Are we inured to such violence? The hundreds of thousands of marchers on Saturday, young and older, said NO!
Sadly, there probably will be more mass shootings, more devastated parents, more funerals, before Congress acts on any of the proposals put forth on Saturday. Change takes time, as we learned during the civil rights marches of the 1950s and 60s, and the anti-war marches of the 60s and 70s. Those were not “one and done,” but the beginning of sustained campaigns that resulted in passage of civil rights protections by Congress, and the eventual end to the war in Vietnam. Similarly, Saturday’s March for Our Lives holds significant promise for making changes at the federal level, sometimes led by youth not yet eligible to vote. Theirs is a thunderous message. Is Congress listening?
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter and Supportive Housing will be held on Thursday, April 5, at 2 p.m. The new shelter will be located at 5914 Seminary Road, right at the crossroads, and will offer an innovative approach for housing homeless persons and helping them transition into permanent housing. When the new shelter opens in late 2019, it will have 52 beds for single adults, including four medical respite beds, and approximately 18 personal living quarters to help aid in transition. The new shelter will replace the existing shelter on Moncure Avenue. Funding for the new shelter was approved by the voters as part of the 2016 Bond Referendum.
In our diverse community, faith is an important aspect of daily life, and two of the three great Abrahamic religions observe holy days this weekend. The Jewish Passover begins on Friday night, and most Christians celebrate Easter on Sunday. Good Pesach and Happy Easter!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]