How do you measure a year? The cast of Rent sings about measuring life over the course of a year in love. It’s been five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes since my niece hid in a closet during the Parkland shootings that killed 14 students and 3 staff members. It has also been almost seventy years since my father survived the mass shooting that killed his mother, father, and grandmother, along with 10 others. Over the course of this past year since the Parkland shooting, I’ve measured the year in love, tweets, and activism. This is the source of my grit, as Dr. Howard Liu so adeptly pointed out in a Tweet to me a few weeks ago.
Dr. Liu, who I met on Twitter, sent me the tweet below after I shared my family’s story. He said, “and now I understand the source of your #grit.” I was a bit stunned when I read his message. Stunned to actually have felt “heard”, and to have confirmation that the messages of the importance of treating gun violence as a public health crisis are reverberating with others. I am not always dwelling in an echo-chamber, with my own noise coming back at me.
And so here we are, five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes since Parkland, and grit and anger continue to fuel my actions. This has been a year of grieving and of growth. The good news is that many other healthcare professionals are working in the space of gun violence prevention, research, and legislation. Through the powerful platform of social media, especially Twitter, I have been privileged to connect with leaders in this movement.
The work does not rest, the urgency to understand the science to prevent gun violence will lead us to evidence-based interventions that will save lives. The work of AFFIRM Research must be supported through investing in funding research. We must know what the science says in order to properly address a cure for the violence that has infected our country.
Stamina and the relentless pursuit of understanding the root cause of gun violence will lead to research-driven solutions. There is a groundswell of support to embrace the concept that gun violence prevention belongs in the public health arena. The time is ripe to fund research that will inform practice to keep our communities safe. There is a sense of urgency that will not be dampened by political opposition or inaction.
Speaking truth to power is the biggest life lesson I learned in this past year. I am grateful for those amazing activists whose paths I have been fortunate to join on this journey to creating a safer world.