Mount Vernon A Richmond mom first made the clothesline of white t-shirts six years ago — 32 of them in all; one for each of the victims of Virginia Tech. It's been six years, but we have not forgotten. The names written on each of those t-shirts are heartbreakingly familiar ... Mary, Reema, Daniel ….
Six months ago, the same mom made another clothesline of white t-shirts — 26 of them this time, one for each of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary. Six of those t-shirts are adult sized, but 20 are for the tiny body of a kindergartener. The ages of the victims are written on the back ... 6, 6, and again, 6 .... and the names written on the front are, once again, heartbreakingly familiar ... Ana, Jesse, Noah, Olivia ....
The people gathered at the NRA Headquarters just like they had on the 14th of every month since January, wearing green t-shirts and Va Tech ribbons and yellow stickers that read, "Background Checks Save Lives."
They were from Fairfax, Fauquier, and Loudoun County, from Fredericksburg and Richmond. There was a mom whose daughter had been at Virginia Tech on that dreadful April day and a father who was a native of Newtown. "Where else would I be?" he asked. "How could I not be here?"
It was a windy day, but we held on to that line firmly; 58 t-shirts of 58 names take up a lot of clothesline. Children, students, teachers, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands ... read out the names aloud and feel the tightening in your chest and the prick of tears in your eyes. These children, these students, these teachers, are dead. Their last moments were painful and terrifying and obscenely horrific. All that wonderful potential, all the marvelous things they could have accomplished, all the good they might have done for the world, their dreams, their parent's dreams, everything ... that died, too.
There is a nice police officer who watches over us and, I guess, makes sure we don't cause trouble for the NRA — surely the easiest part of his day. At the end of the vigil, he drove by and gave us a friendly smile.
"See you next month, ladies?" he asked.
"We'll be here," we affirmed. Where else would we be? How could we not be here?