Imagine a map of the country in which push-pins mark the location of every mass shooting in the last decade and a half.
A pin for Columbine, Colorado; Newton, Connecticut; Blacksburg, Virginia; San Bernardino, California; Fort Hood, Texas; Aurora, Colorado; Washington, D.C.; and Charleston, South Carolina, and, closer to home in Louisiana, the community of Lafayette, where a gunman opened fire in a crowded theater last summer.
This past weekend, Orlando, Florida, joined the list. A gunman attacked a gay night club, killing at least 50 and injuring more than 50 others. New Orleans native Leonel Melendez reportedly was among the injured. Another push-pin has been added to this geography of terror, and we can now conceive of a map freckled from coast to coast with human loss.
We are approaching a time, we fear, when we will no longer need imagination to fathom the terror of mass murder. These shootings, sadly, are becoming so common that soon we might all know a friend, relative or acquaintance who’s among the fallen.
But for now, it is enough to know that dozens of our fellow Americans and their families have been shattered by what happened in Orlando.
The thought that a gunman pledged to the Islamic State group apparently targeted gay victims for his villainy is all the more tragic.
In Louisiana, where our culture is sustained and enriched by the immense diversity of our people, we know we are a better place when what makes us different is celebrated, not condemned. To every madman’s vision of a monolithic world in which everyone lives alike and loves alike and thinks alike and prays alike, let us answer that this is not the Louisiana way, nor is it the American way.
We join with those across the United States in hoping for a swift and thorough investigation to determine if the Orlando shooting was orchestrated from abroad. Initial findings suggest a lone gunman acting out some freelance fantasy of jihad, but only time will tell if others were involved.
In the meantime, we have an obligation to remember the dead, heal the wounded, comfort the grieving and affirm the continuity of law and liberty.
We have become all too experienced in dealing with mass shootings. Our only comfort from that experience is the knowledge that in this time, as in others, human dignity and compassion will prevail.