by Virginia ER nurse and House of Delegates candidates Kellen Squire
One of the things that has stayed with me the longest about being in the ER for the Unite the Right attack in Charlottesville was the family members of victims who were looking for their loved ones.
One in particular, I’ll never forget. A desperate mother, in tears, looking for her college-aged child. When I told her we were on lockdown, that I couldn’t get her any information right then, she grabbed me and shook me – or tried to, anyway. I outmassed her by at least seventy-five pounds, so there was no chance she could do more than ruffle my scrubs a bit. But it was the desperation in her demeanor, her eyes, just wanting to know her kid was okay as she broke into sobs…
When I read about the family members in Uvalde – in Buffalo, in El Paso, in Virginia Beach, in Pittsburgh, in Parkland, in (this list is too long and depressing to write in full) – waiting to hear about their children (their babies!), desperate for any news, with the cold ball of dread at the pit of their stomach growing more and more pronounced as time goes on, I remember that incident.
It’s kept me up at night more than once.
We can get to work fixing it now. RIGHT now. NOTHING is stopping us. Not the Constitution, not public opinion – nothing. I can grant it’s not going to be easy, because while legislation will be vitally important in getting this done, it’s not a matter of passing a few laws and poof! Now, don’t let anyone use that as an excuse to tell you that nothing can be done – that’s bullshit – but it isn’t the only thing that will fix it.
Because there is a sickness in our society we have to grapple with, something that would take more words than I could easily write here to articulate. It’s not mental health issues – as an ER Nurse, every time some politician whines piously about “ohh, the mental health crisis” when a mass shooting starts, I almost lose it. Because if they actually believed that, they might actually do something to solve the mental health crisis.
But it’s deeper than that. It’s much deeper. There’s extremism right here at home that, if it was in Syria, we’d already have dispatched a flurry of drone strikes against it. There are politicians and pundits whose entire grifting livelihood, whose entire power, comes from stoking that very sickness, and doing everything they can to make sure it never gets resolved
That has to be addressed. God, it won’t be easy, but it HAS to be addressed.
How many more families are we going to consign to going through this? How many more children have to die before we’re tired of shrugging and moving on? I inventoried our pediatric trauma supplies last night. I had to discuss how we manage multiple pediatric patients with hemothoraxes with my nurses and doctors. I had to go over the mass casualty protocols with my new grads. We have to contemplate all of that now, because by the time it happens, it’s way too late.
We need to tackle the problem of rising extremism – now.
We need to keep military-grade weapons out of the hands of teenagers – now.
We need to make sure that schools are a safe place for our children to be, and that parents across Virginia have to say goodbye in the morning wondering if it’ll be the last time they see their kids – now.
I’ll tell you this much: I’m not going to wait for this to show up in my ER, or at my kids’ school, before I do anything to fix this.
Kellen Squire is an ER Nurse and candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates in Charlottesville, VA.