Content warning: This story contains references to gun violence
The typical news cycle lasts one week.
After seven days, old stories are filtered out and replaced with the new ones. As that fresh content takes hold of headlines, fills pages and occupies our news feed, we start to forget. The information from last week fades in order to make room for this week’s information. Seven days later, it happens all over again.
But Monday marks a week since the tragic shooting on Michigan State’s campus. A week since a shooter stole the lives of Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner. A week since five other victims had their lives changed forever. A week since every Spartan lost any sense of security in the place they call home.
How, then, could we turn the page and forget?
It would be disrespectful, irresponsible and heartless. It should be impossible.
Unfortunately, though, we quickly turn that page far too often. In a world — in a country — that simply replaces one tragedy with the next, we manage to regularly sweep inhumane horrors under the rug in a matter of seven days.
In just the first six weeks of 2023, there’s been over 70 mass shootings in the United States — an average of nearly two a day. The numbers aren’t just staggering, they’re unbelievable. This amount of gun violence and death can’t be accepted.
Yet here we are, going about our lives like it’s normal.
Meanwhile, in the wake of tragedy, we emphasize a return to “normalcy.”
I do not want to go back to a normal where people have to fear going to class — where deciding to go study could be a life or death decision. I do not want to go back to a normal that involves texting my friends on a Monday night praying that they’re alive. I do not want to go back to a normal where a girl I shared halls and classrooms with in high school is now dead.
I do not want to go back to our current normal.
Last week was a moving display of unity. Every day, it was markedly obvious how little the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State mattered. We all had our friends, our family and every student in East Lansing in our thoughts. Spartan gear adorned the Wolverine campus, images of support were shared on social media and it was clear that people mattered, not their affiliation.
Everybody in the state of Michigan was on the side of healing.
And for some, sports was part of that healing journey.
On Wednesday, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo spoke at a vigil to honor the victims.
“Our hearts are heavy,” Izzo said. “Our loss has been great. Our lives have been permanently changed. With a shared commitment to help each other and a promise to remember those we have lost, we will find joy again.”
To many, his words meant a lot. Sports is their place of comfort, of escape, and Izzo is a living legend. And to all the parents of Spartans, Izzo offered empathy.
“(My son) Steven was at one of the buildings two nights ago about 10 minutes after things happened,” Izzo said. “So sometimes we don’t understand because we haven’t been through it. That little moment brought me a little closer to understanding.”
Then, the week built toward a fatefully scheduled moment of togetherness. The Michigan and Michigan State men’s basketball teams were set to play Saturday.
After everything, it’s what many people needed.
“We can’t do anything about what’s happened,” Izzo told reporters Thursday. “Except hopefully do a better job of making sure it doesn’t happen again. But we can do something about moving forward. Because there’s probably a brother or sister of one of those three that has to live. There’s a mom, and a dad, and hopefully a smile on your face — whether it’s a Michigan fan being mad at me, or a Michigan State fan being happy, hopefully — it just brings everybody together.”
The game succeeded in that. It offered a moment of silence, ‘Michigan Basketball stands with MSU’ shirts, ‘Spartan Strong’ banners in the Maize Rage, green lights and LED wristbands and a general outpouring of support.
The game between the two in-state rivals was the culmination of a week of promoted togetherness. From Monday to Saturday, news showed communities coming together and condemning the horrid act of violence. We offered support, gave our prayers and said that this should never happen again.
But then it’s Monday. And a new cycle begins.
Michigan State students return to class. Headlines return to normal. And we return to our lives.
But there are kids who can’t do that Monday morning. Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner cannot do that Monday. Think about that and read their names again.
They are not just names. They are people. People who lost their lives, people with family, people with friends and people who had a future stolen from them.
They are people that we cannot forget, and people we cannot let the never-ending churn of the news cycle forget. We must say these people’s names louder. Really hear them.
Remind everyone again this week that you stand ‘Spartan Strong.’ Remind them that the tragedy that occurred is unacceptable. Remind them that we need a change.
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Parkland. Uvalde. Oxford. Michigan State.
Each time, we watch children die. Then we move on until the next child is killed. Then we move on again, until the cycle restarts.
It cannot continue.
If you need this time to heal, heal. But if you can bear it, now is the time for rage. Speak their names, condemn violence, stand up against the weapons that can do this. Do not let new stories take the place of the people whose lives were forever changed due to inaction.
Do not let the ferocious tide of “normalcy” convince you that we can go back to normal.
This is not normal.
We can’t let it be.
Stoll can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @nkstoll.