On Saugus: Voices from the Community Part 1

What comes to mind when you think of sweet sixteen? Pool parties, backyard barbecues, bowling, movies, sleepovers, these are some of the common ways to celebrate. A coming of age party, a step closer to adulthood, a rite of passage, and now, for some, a tragedy all too familiar.

On his 16th birthday, Santa Clarita Saugus High School shooter opened fire and shot five students, two of whom have passed away.

Thousands gathered this Sunday to pay homage to Dominic Blackwell and Gracie Anne Muehlberger, and their grieving friends and family.
Muehlberger's brother shared some precious moments and cherished memories, some from Gracie's last birthday party. Unfortunately,
Gracie or Dominic will never get the chance to celebrate their sweet sixteen. Two lives are lost, thousands scarred forever, because of gun
violence, once again.

Just this year, there were 85 school shootings recorded in the US.1 Children are the future, yet their present is filled with loss and
terror at such a young age. Student survivors face problems like PTSD, anxiety, substance abuse, and many others.

Ironically, violence and mental illness are still intertwined in public perception. However, evidence shows the opposite. People with
mental illnesses make up only a small proportion of violent offenders. In the media and everyday life, mental health is being referred to as
the cause of mass shootings while becoming their painful byproduct.

After a conflict, large mammals perform several rituals as ways to forgive and care for one another.

What about us humans? At this rate, what rituals will we have to come up with to heal? Until when should kids have to mourn their friends? How many more uncelebrated birthdays because of a lack of sensible gun laws?

"Saugus Strong!" was the goosebump-giving chant heard before the high school playoffs. Once again, even with tears in their eyes, the
younger generation shows what's it like to be strong. I just wish it wasn't their only given choice.

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