I have avoided the coverage of the shootings in Cumbria today. Partly because I live in a town of similar size, I can’t bear to think of it happening here. My head doesn’t want to comprehend what could happen to make a man do that, or how a town copes with such a senseless tragedy.
It’s also because I know what the coverage will be. It will be talking heads, reporters stationed outside pubs they don’t know- discussions with passers-by. Grasping at straws trying to make sense of the senseless. It is the nature of 24 hour news that this coverage will be stretched to fill schedules, and sensationalised to sell papers. Asking what lessons we need to learn, what made this happen?
All of it desperately avoiding what we know to be true. This happened, because people are capable of terrible things. People sometimes do terrible things, with horrific consequences, for unfathomable reasons.
The shootings at the school in Dunblane happened while I was at school in Stranraer. Possibly 6th form.
I wanted to start a collection for the families affected. My foster mum, who is a very wise woman, asked me why.
I said it was to do something, and she asked what I thought it would achieve-she wasn’t being unkind but as she asked the question, I knew(although wouldn’t admit) the reason I wanted to start a collection was for me.
So that I could feel I was doing something, anything. I didn’t want people to be capable of this, even though I knew they were. On some level I wanted to make it better. I didn’t do the collection, by the time I had had the idea- there were several going round the school.
I passed through Dunblane later that year, and I was shocked that it was still the same place it was before the shootings. The world kept turning, and the sun kept rising(and disappearing as it tends to do in that part of Scotland)- the people of this town got on with their lives, their jobs.
I know enough to know that this was not easy for some, and is probably still a struggle for others. When I saw the pictures the Daily Express used to attack the young people who survived, I was cheered by the sight of these 18 year olds, being 18. Pissed, raucous, and young.
I won’t miss anything of value in the coverage of these shootings. What has happened has happened. It happened because one man was capable of it, and nothing anyone does or says can change that.
It may be that the people affected want to learn lessons, or ask question, as they did in Dunblane. But no amount of legislation and or outrage in the media will achieve that, and ultimately all anyone can do is wait and see what these people say they need.
This is rare. We don’t have the gun culture that allows this to happen with alarming frequency in the US. Thanks to the people of Dunblane, people aren’t allowed to own handguns any more.
People are capable of terrible things, and while the coverage infuriates me, I knowthe shock which drives it is borne of a belief that people shouldn’t be capable of this- that there must be a reason. In that shock, there is some comfort.