Nearly five years ago, I watched evil take hold of an entire community. It ripped families apart, released toxicity into the air and weighed heavily on people’s hearts. It still does to this day. It still weighs on mine.
Like many young adults in the country, my very first job was a camp counselor position. For the most part, it was a love hate relationship, a job I loved and loved to hate, all in one. Those experiences, the sweet memories, the old camp friends were innocent and light and perfectly American.
That is until my reality changed one December. Up until then, for the past three summers, I had transformed. I’d put on my cape and hide all my insecurities and fears. For the duration of those summers, I was perfect. I was a superhero. Sometimes I faked it but often I forgot that my smiles were an act. I forget how grumpy I was at breakfast or how little sleep I had gotten the night before. It all seemed so small and suddenly I’d find myself laughing and smiling for real.
During my time at camp I met hundreds of young Cub Scouts, kids who were rambunctious but sought adventure and knowledge. Some were introverted and required a bit more attention, but me being the superhero I was at the time – I was never tired, I never said no and there was always more for me to give.
I remember like it was yesterday meeting a young camper named Ben Wheeler. As the days went on, Ben seemed more and more welcoming of our program. I thought maybe he, too, was starting to view me as a superhero, like his friends did.
That December, something so horrific and tragic happened that not even my league of superheroes could comprehend. Innocent children and their educators were taken away from their families in the most vile way imaginable, just weeks away from Christmas. As the news of the massacre flooded the media, the superheroes instantly got in touch with each other and prayed. In the real world, the superheroes had little power.
The superheroes, who never feared, never cried, never got angry and always knew the answer to everything were suddenly afraid, sobbed, cursed and were at a loss for words. Ben Wheeler and Chase Kowalski were two former campers of ours who had lost their lives at Sandy Hook.
The superheroes attended the funerals of both victims and mourned alongside their families. It gave them great comfort to hear from their parents how much fun they had at camp and how those little memories and pictures would stay with them forever. Ben was cremated in his Cub Scout uniform, wearing the neckerchief slide he had made at camp with the aid of a fellow superhero much craftier than I.
These memories, these people, this tragedy is with me forever. So, every time another mass shooting happens in our country, each deadlier than the previous one, it brings me back to that time years ago where the strong superhero I wanted to be felt powerless and ashamed.
We can pray for Las Vegas and Newtown and San Bernardino and all the mass shootings that happen all throughout our country that get little attention but it is not enough. Before we move on, which we always do rather quickly, we need superheroes. I’m not talking about the first responders, the doctors and nurses, the police officers or the brave civilians who put their lives on the line to help strangers in need.
We need superheroes to strap on their capes in Washington, immediately, and know this uniquely American problem needs many superhero hands to go away once and for all. We need superheroes to stand up to the gun lobby, to read the pulse of the country and to stand for what they know to be right. It is no longer incumbent on partisans and talking heads to make a lot of noise regarding gun control and deepen the party line divide. When it’s all said and done, we like to yell at each other and then just run back to our corners. But we need superheroes to go beyond the debate. This is on all of us and we can all be superheroes.
Caio Goncalves is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.