Saturday, April 27 will go down as a date that irrevocably changed Poway. As the news of the shooting first reached us, we felt a variety of reactions: fear, concern, sadness, loss, anger. No number of heart-wrenching news stories about similar events can prepare someone for the experience of having of one of those stories in our community.
Statistically, the odds of witnessing a shooting like this, whether actually being on the scene or just a member of the community, are incredibly low. Nonetheless, the scars left from witnessing this heinous crime will not be so easily erased.
Everyone will react differently, but there are many in the community who feel an additional sense of fear now. If one hate-filled person can do this in a town as reputably safe and quiet as Poway, what is to stop these kinds of hate crimes from occurring again?
It is hard, as a Poway resident, to imagine any event in our small town having nationwide effects. And yet there is the President speaking about Poway, and there are religious institutions in other parts of the country holding services for those who were at the Chabad of Poway that day.
And even if no Poway High students or staff were there at the time, many among us have friends and family who were witnesses or victims. Nothing the rest of us feel can compare to what those individuals have experienced.
Additionally, we know the shooter to be a graduate of Mt. Carmel. Seeing that he was from our own school district raises questions of whether the PUSD is doing enough to ensure that our schools are not the kind of environment that can breed such violence and hatred.
But really, this is not just a Poway problem. Hatred and violence exist in every community across the country, at least in a small amount.
Online communities also make space for hate to flourish. Unregulated forums and discussion boards give those inclined toward hatred and violence a space where their views are accepted and maybe even encouraged, leaving citizens torn between whether we should restrict Constitutional rights to freedoms of speech and religion by regulating these online spaces, or whether we should leave them be and risk additional atrocities.
There is no denying that these crimes cannot exist without the hatred, discrimination, and bias some people feel. And our staff proposed a large array of solutions to this kind of hatred and violence, including harsher gun laws, armed guards, better education about other cultures/religions, and less giving less media attention and notoriety to the perpetrators of these crimes.
Whatever legal action is appropriate, if any, is something to be decided at the voting booths and debated about another time. We cannot take back what has happened, but we can take control of our future, and make it a better one, where we work towards eliminating hatred both in and beyond our community so that others do not have to suffer tragedies like what took place at the Chabad of Poway.