Thursday, February 22, 2024

Guest Essay: 'Fight for our right to grow old'

Flowers hang on the door of the Union on Feb. 20, 2023. The day before, 'Spartan Sunday' was held on campus where students and the community came together to take back the campus after a mass shooting took place on Feb. 13, 2023.
Flowers hang on the door of the Union on Feb. 20, 2023. The day before, 'Spartan Sunday' was held on campus where students and the community came together to take back the campus after a mass shooting took place on Feb. 13, 2023. —
Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

By Ryan Mondalek, MSU Graduate Assistant

“How many more?”

So read the famous Rock on MSU’s campus in bright red paint on the morning Feb. 14 following a night of horror. This brief message portraying the shock and heartbreak of an entire student body, on a day meant to celebrate love.

This rock, famous as a place of student self-expression and event advertisement, has been turned into an ad-hoc memorial to those of us cruelly cut down in their youth by a lone gunman with a legally purchased weapon. Truly, in this time, we are all wondering “how many more?” We are right to ask this question.

How many more times will our schools and homes be invaded and violated. How many more friends killed. How many more times will our innocence be shattered prematurely. How many more times will our calls for basic reform go unanswered.

Every student at MSU lost something that day. Many of us, a sense of security in a place we call home. Some of us, a friend or loved one. All of us, a life free from violence. We are forever changed.

I’ll never forget two men I came across at midnight standing near the doors of the MSU Union. They were mourning at this erstwhile place of vibrant student life, now appearing as a sealed tomb for the fallen. They cried for a close friend they lost together at that very place.

They told me stories of him, how he was effortlessly funny, energetic, truly the life of any party, and welcoming to anyone that crossed his path. They told me that he left that fateful evening to work, not only to provide for himself but for his friends as well. We were all, in that moment, united in our sadness for the loss of such a man. We all wished that the senselessness of his death might lead to world where others can simply live in peace.

A world where we all have the right to grow old.

Nothing we do or say now can change the past. Nothing can bring back the friends that were lost. Yet, anything we do or say now will change the future, will prevent all that we experienced from being inflicted onto others. There are common sense reforms that we have the power to enact: universal background checks, red flag laws, safe storage, safety education, and more available mental health services in schools and communities. If even one life is saved, if one more shooting is prevented, our tragedy will then have meaning.

In the past, there has been no action. No compassion from those we trusted to lead. We’ve allowed violence become normal when it is the furthest thing from it. Enough.

Now is the time to act. We implore you, as our elected officials, to introduce and pass common sense measures. Fight for us. Fight for our lives.

Fight for our right to grow old.

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