Processing Real-Time Tragedy: Four Stages

Students said they were determined to do something.

Delbert W. Baker

February 14, 2018.

Process One: Revulsion

Like millions of people around the world, I too was shocked and deeply moved. I heard about and saw the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where a young gunman killed 17 people and wounded 17 more.

It made no difference that I was some 8,000 miles away at the Adventist University of Africa (AUA). The news flashed around the world in real time.

Process Two: Response

Of course, it wasn’t the first school shooting. We all know the sickening list of these incidents. However, something about this Parkland situation riveted me. With sorrow, questions, and emotions I followed it closely.

Students said they were determined to do something.

I silently prayed for the people involved; with the AUA campus family we prayed publicly. We empathized and sympathized. Later in the relevant Web sites I scrolled through the photos showing all 17 victims, lives cut short: men and women, girls and boys, all races and ethnic groups.

I was touched, saddened, and angry at the loss of lives. I thought: What can we do?

Process Three: Reaction

About a week after the Parkland incident young student survivors and students across the country launched the #NeverAgain movement, and the March for Our Lives nationwide protest to speak out against gun violence.

“Not one more,” reads the march’s mission statement. “We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes. Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.”

Students said they were determined to do something, because politicians wouldn’t and other adults didn’t. Motivated, they mobilized and started a phenomenon: a spontaneous youth movement that erupted with social media buzz, news media coverage around the world, and untold millions of messages being transmitted on social media.

The March for Our Lives took place March 24, 2018, and was a success beyond expectation. Estimates of how many people marched in North America are inexact, but numbers range from 500,000 to 1 million. It’s difficult to predict where the movement will go from here.

Process Four: Reflection

Reflect on this well-known statement by Ellen White: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!”*

Further Reflection

Why do you think incidents such as these continue to happen?

What can we do about the last-day events that surround us?

Where can we turn? To the Word? To others?

What should be our response?

If we don’t act, what will be the outcome?

*Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), p. 271.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa near Nairobi, Kenya.

Delbert W. Baker