Opinion: Why do Americans unite under tragedy?

Jaluan Newson

When tragedy strikes, its target is sporadic and it affects many. Tragedy isn’t motivated by societal influences. Dylann Roof was racially and religiously motivated when he murdered African Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church but it left not just African Americans or African American Christians alarmed but all Christians alike. On 9/11, the target was a war against Americans, but the victims were not just Americans. There were 67 British victims among several other nationalities. 

When tragedies happen, we all can imagine ourselves or our loved ones being in that position. There have been 22 “reported” school shootings in 2019, and the year is not over. Additionally, there are several previous years which include tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting. Americans mourn for the victims’ relatives because we can envision ourselves being in the same situation or our loved ones being affected. That 10-year-old boy could be our son, nephew or cousin. That 8-year-old girl could be our daughter, niece or cousin. Our hearts are broken across the nation when a child has been slain. They left lives incomplete, with parents having to bury their children. Even if the child survives the killing spree, just as the sand is wiped away from the shore, so is their innocence washed away with blood.

I have been affected by public tragedies twice just this year. Winter of 2019 there was a shooting at my neighborhood Walmart involving a soldier suffering from PTSD. While there were no innocent causalities, the shooter was fatally gunned down by police officers. The Walmart shooting in El Paso, Texas, received national attention. I have relatives that reside in El Paso and a cousin that works at a Walmart in El Paso. When I received the news I texted and called my cousin to make sure he was alive and well. Fortunately, my cousin did not work the day of the El Paso shooting. 

My cousin decided to stay home several days after the El Paso shooting. Fear unites Americans. The question is “who, or what is next.” Fear is a centralized emotion that all Americans have experienced. Fear and sorrow are palpable across every kind of American. They are what unites us to empathize with grieving victims. The fear is that we don’t want to be alone if a tragedy decides to hit home.

We unite under tragedy for safety. Christians, Muslims, Jews and other religious sects group together under tragedy to pray to God for a hedge of protection around the nation. We gather together to write guides for distress. We unite to form community watch groups. We come together as a household, and we unionize as communities across the nation to combat the issue of “How do we digress or prevent tragic moments from happening?” 

Edited by Adam White, Jessica Galvin, Brianna Smith