But I made the mistake of looking at Facebook. And there was the live stream from one of the south Florida TV stations doing coverage of the 18th shooting at a school in the United States, this time in Broward County at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Two dead. Then seven. Finally, the number climbed to seventeen. The shooter, a 19 year-old former student, was captured after initially eluding police. The details about his life and what was known, and not known, about him are coming to light and will continue to surface over the next several days.
And then, the story will fade from the headlines. People won't be talking about it. News crews will leave Parkland, Florida. Nothing will change.
One of the most striking images I saw from Parkland was that of a parent holding her teenager, arm around her, rushing her away from the scene with the unmistakable black ash of a cross on the mom's forehead.
Wow. That's right: it was Ash Wednesday. "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." But do we really believe that a child at 14, 15, 16 years old or even an otherwise healthy thirty-something year old adult are going to return to the dust? Does a parent really think that kissing their child good-bye and sending them off to school is akin to sending them to a war zone?
This sobering thought was on my mind for the rest of the day and into my own trip to an Ash Wednesday service. I couldn't stop thinking about the image of that mom, the terror that must have filled the hearts of both the kids and the adults. Tears came to my eyes as I watched a family go forward for the imposition of ashes. As the rector traced the sign of the cross on the forehead of the toddler, it felt like a punch to my gut. I looked at that and thought, "Newtown."
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of a 40-day journey into self-examination and reflection. And while I can't do the spiritual work of anyone other than myself, it seems we are dying--literally--to examine our political leaders inability to do anything to address the wide-spread availability of semi-automatic weapons and reflect on whether we want something different.
The Broward County Sheriff, the Governor, and several politicians described Wednesday's massacre as "evil." I agree. And a mentally-disturbed person armed with a semi-automatic weapon is more dangerous than a mentally-disturbed person who is unarmed. Refusing to acknowledge and address the issue of guns is like Peter in the courtyard pretending he doesn't know Jesus in those hours before his execution. The good news about Peter's betrayal is that he felt remorse and he had the opportunity to undo his denial by affirming his love for the risen Jesus. Perhaps this could be something for our political leaders to contemplate while they are down on their knees praying for the victims of gun violence. Maybe if they listen closely they'll hear a call to stand for something other than the money they receive from the NRA.
Lent would be as good a time as any for lawmakers to change their ways and take this issue seriously.