A series of random shooting deaths has my city, Seattle on edge. A father doing errands with his children and parents in the car, a bystander at a festival in Seattle Center, 5 people having morning coffee in a local cafe, a mother of two in a parking lot... Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H. Dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health offered faculty and students this eloquent reflection and response to the fear and grief. It is worth the read for anyone struggling to make meaning and take purposeful action in the face of tragedy.
Today’s Seattle Times headline got it right: “Days of horror, grief in a shaken city.” The eruption of gun violence in Seattle in recent days has left all of us shaken. We grieve for the victims, and we yearn for the sense of safety and security that ordinarily grace our campus and our city.
Recent events highlight a range of public health problems: gun violence, mental illness, substance abuse, poverty. While there are no simple solutions to any of these, we in public health know some of what we need to do: provide effective treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, reduce access to guns, strengthen community ties, improve housing, transportation, and economic opportunities. We need to work with our colleagues in social work, law enforcement, mental health services, and many other fields, toward comprehensive solutions. We need to be guided by solid data, and we need to act on the data we have.
But for now, we need to take time to grieve and to support each other, even as we reassert the values that will see us through this very difficult time: compassion, generosity, civic engagement, nonviolence, social justice, and courage. Please take a moment to remember the victims of violence and their families, to take good care of yourself and your loved ones, and to rededicate yourself to our shared vision of healthy people in sustainable—and safe—communities.