I’ve spent half of Thursday sobbing at my desk upon learning that one of the Florida shooting victims is the daughter of a longtime friend, Ryan Petty. For some reason, I didn’t make the connection at first until my former editor brought it to my attention. Then, the emotions all came crashing down.
I had done my best to avoid listening to the details of the mass murders — even with my love of journalism I just didn’t want to hear anymore about it. When I was at Camas High School last Thursday, I thought about those kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. During that drive, I said a personal prayer for their safety as those Papermakers headed off to compete at State. They could have been my kids, your kids, my friend’s kids. And, just 15 minutes after driving away from the State teams send-off, I learned it was my friend’s child.
Alaina Petty, a 14-year-old Latter-day Saint girl was gunned down by Nikolas Cruz — along with many others. She was guilty of nothing. She was a happy, active teenager, like many here in Camas, Washougal, and throughout the world.
Her father and I chat about BMW’s, the latest technological advances, my tenure at Amazon, and I often just refer to him as a “geek.” It’s a longstanding joke between us. Ryan and I served together in Ecuador, serving our church and finding ways to help others. And, that’s the kind of family he has.
I can’t even imagine the grief and shock that Ryan, Kelly and their family are going through. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare turned reality, and it’s playing out in the national media. There will be funerals, memorials, tributes — and there will be a courtroom trial. All with the glare of television cameras and reporters.
Their lives have changed forever.
Alaina Petty. Photo courtesy of Petty family.
So, how did we get here? And how do we resolve it?
Family Therapist, Julie Russell, says when people become isolated they act out in outrageous ways — and that’s why we keep seeing these tragedies unfold.
“Broken homes, neglect, abuse all contribute to society’s problems,” said Russell. “Sometimes all a teen needs is to know that someone really cares and loves them.”
I’ve listened to all the reports about Cruz’s mental instability and the all the red flags that led up to this horrific mass murder. People are calling for additional gun control, new legislation, more armed guards, more security, more funding for mental health. I say debate it all and do it in a civil way. But, don’t talk forever. Our society needs to act.
Cindy Giovanni, a former Superintendent in Columbia, MO advocates for the following:
- Get AR-15 rifles off the streets.
- Fund mental health initiatives (local, state and national).
Local representatives call for greater funding for school resource officers in every school — even elementary schools. I say do it.
But, my gut instinct tells me no President, Mayor, Congressperson, legislation or policy can ever get into — and repair the hearts of individuals. A sick, demented, evil person will always find a way to wreak havoc. There are some people that like to watch the world burn.
So, while the politicians debate and play the blame game, what can you do right now?
Be loving, respectful, charitable to those closest to you.
Lift others around you.
Do something kind for those in your mind may least deserve it. You never know what’s happening in one’s heart or mind. People act out because they feel anger, insecurity, pain, suffering, loneliness. The list goes on and on.
Imagine a world in which we all do one nice thing for someone next to you. The world could change in an instant.
Sweet Alaina Petty didn’t deserve this. Her family is forever changed. Their little girl is gone.
The Petty family’s faith will bouy them, and they have a community that loves and supports them.
“We love you, too,” Ryan Petty told me. “Hug those kids of yours!”
For now, pray for them, and for all the families affected by this madness. Act by showing kindness to others. Be patient. Love others. Make it a point to do something nice for someone else each day.
The Petty family has asked everyone to donate funds to help Maddy Wilford, a friend of Alaina’s, to assist with her recovery. She was shot, and was severely injured during this tragedy. They do this as they prepare for their daughter’s funeral.
Thank you for reading.
Love, Ernie Geigenmiller
The Petty Family. Before moving to Florida, they lived in Washington — in Seattle metro.