Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sidebar to Massacres

Anonymous people who bring balloons, hearts, notes and a great deal more to the sites of mass shootings, want to express their sympathy to the families and loved ones and they don't know what else to do.

This is an immediate response to these tragedies and I doubt that any of the donors wonder what happened to their offering a month later.  Their grief expunged by their offerings, they go on.

But the city does not.  Newton, Conn.  is a small town and they were inundated at the arrival of 50,000 teddy bears from all over the world after Sandy Hook.  Are they picked over and given to a children's charity?  The children's hospital wards?

No, they and all of the other items left at all of the other shooting sites, are curated and stored in the town's own museum or one is created to house these things.

George McDaniel, a curator after the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal  Church event which killed  nine, said, "I think in the future anthropologists will look at the artifacts left behind and see strong communities because of our human condition.  ... But the reason this is so important is because it shows how people want to express themselves just by being there.  There is a deep-seated human need to communicate in these times of grief, and it's natural to want to leave something behind to express that.  We want to honor that."

Things left behind for anthropologists to mull over:

Emanuel African - Bibles, quilts, and "an abundance of origami cranes."
Columbine:  10,000 items that included Beanie Babies, cassette tapes, track shoes
Las Vegas:  flags from Canada, new Zealand and Japan left at the Las Vegas sign
Aurora: cowboy boots, hats, Batman and comic book items
Pulse nightclub:  rainbow flags, Disney items, Our Lady of Guadalupe commemorative candles

Every single recognizable item is photographed, a written description put with it and the photos in a bag and set aside for the museum.  It is no hurried thing.  Cataloging the Columbine shooting items has taken seven years.

Perhaps it would be better to give that teddy bear to a childrens' ward in the hospital or a sanctuary site for battered women and their kids; those rainbow flags to the local LGBTQ.   Instead of going to the site, perhaps a vase of flowers in your front yard or on the porch with a little sign - perhaps "In Memory of the victims at (fill in)."  Post- tragedy curators will bless your name.

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