‘I’m fed up with vigils, candles and moments of silence,’ Gloucester father whose son died in a school shooting writes

“There are dozens of ways to reduce gun violence, but the country as a whole seems to lack the will to do any of them,” Gregory Gibson wrote in The New York Times.

APRIL 12, 2001:  GLOUCESTER:  Gregory Gibson at Seaside Cemetary in the Lanesville section of Gloucester, where curved granite marks the grave of his son Galen, who was murdered in 1992.    GLOBE STAFF PHOTO/JOHN BLANDING     STORY/RICH HIGGINS, METRO  REMOTE TRANSMISSION RW

Library Tag 04192001 METRO
Gregory Gibson at Seaside Cemetary in the Lanesville section of Gloucester in 2001, where curved granite marks the grave of his son Galen. –John Blanding / The Boston Globe, File

Twenty-five years ago, Gregory Gibson’s son was killed when a student went on a rampage with a semiautomatic rifle on the campus of Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

Four people were wounded in the shooting on the Great Barrington campus on Dec. 14, 1992. Gibson’s 18-year-old son, Galen, and an Argentinian language professor, Nacunan Saez, 37, were killed.

The Gloucester father wrote in The New York Times Saturday about what it means be part of “the club no one wants to join” — the survivors who have had family members, loved ones, friends, or neighbors killed by guns.

Gibson recounted being asked at a rally Thursday at the State House in Boston about how “it felt” after the experience his family endured to be calling for gun control changes a day after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida:

It feels terrible, is one answer. Because I understand from my own experience that when you suffer a loss like this, it feels like this: Not only has my loved one died, I have died as well. My former life, the life I would have lived with that now-dead loved one, exists no more. All the years we’ll spend grieving for our loved ones, we’ll also be grieving for our own lives — our old lives. Because we don’t know we’re grieving for ourselves as well as our loved ones, we can’t get to the source of our grief, and it comes to seem bottomless, as if the world were made of grief. But somehow we survive. It’s amazing how many of us survive. It’s amazing that survival is the rule rather than the exception.

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Gibson, who has written a book about what happened to his son, said in his op-ed there are “dozens of ways to reduce violence, but the country as a whole seems to lack the will do any of them.”

He questioned how it might be possible to break through to “the goodness in people” and “pierce America’s complacent hide”:

We lack the will to elect people who understand that sensible gun laws will save lives.

I’ve been at this for 25 years, and frankly I’m fed up with carefully reasoned essays, with weeping in front of cameras. I’m fed up with vigils, candles and moments of silence, and I think America is, too.

Perhaps my next sound bite should be a snarl. I know of a survivor who has a crime-scene photograph of her daughter’s bullet-riddled corpse. When she speaks with politicians about gun laws, she shows them the photograph. I have a similar photograph of my son. Perhaps the time has come to use it.

The gunman responsible for the Simon’s Rock shooting, Wayne Lo, is serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk, where Gibson met with him for a StoryCorps interview.

“It’s not because I want to forgive or I want answers,” Gibson told The Berkshire Eagle of why he met with Lo. “It’s because [Lo] and I have a very specific thing we want to accomplish.”

That goal, Gibson said, is his own long-standing mission to “make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Read his full op-ed, “A Message from the Club No One Wants to Join,” at the Times.