The Huntington News

Column: We need to vote for our lives

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Column: We need to vote for our lives

Melissa Wells, columnist

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I forgot Oct. 1 marked the anniversary of the Route 91 Harvest mass shooting in Las Vegas. It is easy to lose track, with the staggering frequency of gun violence tragedies. Perhaps the real tragedy is not the America we live in, but how we must adapt to incompetent gun control laws as a nation.

On Sept. 29, I attended the Global Citizen Music Festival with friends to celebrate my birthday. It was nothing short of memorable, for all the wrong reasons.

Around 7 p.m., gunshot-like noises filled the air. Before any of us registered the sound, people were running. Screams echoed as panic and fear manifested into a mob that nearly trampled my friend and I when we were pushed to the ground.

In tears, separated from my friends and without cell service, I ran. I remember a mother sprinting, a child in each arm and a broken stroller dragging behind her as officers advised: “If you can’t run, then hide.”

Then, the NYPD police commissioner announced it was a false alarm. What had felt like an eternity of fear of the unknown had concluded in minutes.

I exited the park without faltering. When I finally spoke to my parents, my words were jumbled between sobs. Once I found my friends, we boarded the first train out of the city.

It was a false alarm, but my nightmares wake me in a cold sweat. The relief I felt after finding out it was a mistake has been followed by the unsettling feeling that it is too easy in this country for it to be a reality.

The relief I felt never came to those who attended the Route 91 Harvest music festival, or the parents of children who walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 and never came out. Not to mention the shootings that claimed the lives of 10 people at Santa Fe High School last May, 26 people at First Baptist Church in Texas last year and 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in 2016.

Worse yet, I understand another iteration of what “This is America” means. For 60,000 people in Central Park last Saturday, it was more plausible that shots had been fired than that a barricade had fallen; the feasibility of an active shooter outweighing any other scenario.

This is America, and it is not a facet of the country that I am proud of. To the survivors of gun violence: I stand with you. I support you. Never doubt that you are seen or heard.

Perhaps it is pessimistic to say bad things will keep happening. Then again, maybe bad things happen so we remember what good looks like.

With that in mind, I will vote for the first time come November; to make that good happen by helping employ it. I implore students to do the same.

Your voice matters: In the words of Cleo Wade, “We make the world safer when we speak up.”

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