When retired Sandisfield resident Rita Kasky turned on her television on Valentine’s Day and saw images of students ushered from yet another school shooting, she was flooded with memories of the Newtown massacre. “I just started crying,” she said. “Even though it wasn’t my own family, it’s just very emotional.”
Unknown to Rita at the time, it was her own family this time. Attending Parkland’s Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school that day were two of her grand-nephews: Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior who has gone on to found and help leader the #NeverAgain student-led gun control movement, and his special needs brother, Holden, 15 and a freshman.
Rita was unaware that her grand-nephews had choiced-in to the Parkland school, since they live twenty miles away in Delray Beach. It wasn’t until her brother Robert, the children’s grandfather, called the next morning and told her to turn on the television. “I did, and there was Cameron speaking with Anderson Cooper.”
The Berkshire connection to the Parkland shooting, although small, is a very real reminder of how close to home a horror like this can hit. “I remember 911,” Rita says. I was working at Gould Farm. I remember feeling safe because I moved up from New York City and now lived here, far from any terrorism targets. And then this happens. And it’s my own family. I don’t feel all that safe anymore. School shootings can happen anywhere.”
In fact, it already has here: Wayne Lo’s shooting spree at Simon’s Rock in December 1992, is one of the earliest such incidents.
Reached by phone in Delray Beach, Cameron’s grandfather, Robert, emphasized that the day of the shooting began as a normal day at the school. “It was just a normal school day, a normal school day with valentines,” he said. “A normal day that ended with 17 kids and teachers who are never coming home again. All because some lunatic got his hands on a killing machine and went on a killing spree with it.
“I don’t know how the kids are going to get through this without severe PTSD. They had to climb over bodies. And yet the politicians make it look like it was anything but guns that caused the tragedy. These guns are weapons of mass destruction. It’s that simple. The First Amendment has limitations – you can’t scream ‘fire!’ in a movie theater when there isn’t one. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be common sense limitations on the Second Amendment, too.”
Cameron and his classmates are making impressive headway, Robert said. “These kids are no milquetoasts. They’re very socially aware teens, and extremely mature in many ways. They see the world through the prism of what’s fair, what’s just. They know full well that after Newtown, nothing happened. After the Pulse nightclub shooting, nothing happened. They know that there have been weekly massacres. And when this happened to them, they said: ‘We have to do something.’” Robert compares this event to a sort of ‘diluted Rosa Parks moment.’ “We won’t win tomorrow, or next month, because the politicians are so pathetic,” he said. “But these kids are going to get rid of the NRA’s influence.”
Nothing short of sensible gun control legislation – banning assault weapons — is going stop these massacres from happening, he added. “Practicing for such an event and arming teachers? That’s nuts. There’s no way to truly prepare for such an event.
“It’s about voting. Everybody’s got to vote. I don’t care how you vote, just as long as you vote. Get your representatives to state their position – without equivocating — and judge them accordingly.”
Otherwise, it’s just going to keep happening.
“Your area, The Berkshires, are magnificent,” said Robert, a former New Englander and frequent visitor. “But just like Newtown, you don’t know where it’s going to happen next, where an unhinged person is going to lose it. It could be anywhere. It’s a horrible thing for our kids to be looking over their shoulders and preparing for a day when the alarm goes off and they have to put their training into effect. They should be enjoying their youth.
“But nowadays, you can’t go to the mall, a movie theater, an outdoor concert, church, or to college, high school or even elementary school without worrying. And it’s a horrible thing. And it needs to stop. This needs to stop.”
Another proponent of gun control? Wayne Lo.
In 2007, after the Virginia Tech massacre (32 murdered), Lo told Newsweek: “The fact that I was able to buy a rifle in 15 minutes, that’s absurd. I was 18. I couldn’t have rented a car to drive home from school, yet I could purchase a rifle. Obviously, a waiting period would be great. Personally, I only had five days left of school before winter break … If I had a two-week waiting period for the gun, I wouldn’t have done it.”