This week I just feel I want to write something about the shocking events that happened in my country last saturday. A young man in Alphen aan den Rijn, a town of 75000 inhabitants walked into his local shopping centre and started shooting. He killed 6 people and wounded several others before shooting himself through the head.
It is the first time something like this has happened in this country. We have seen it on the news, often it is very far away like in the US. And all of us thought, this is not going to happen here. Of course there have been shootings in the past, but those are almost always criminals or problems in within families.
Nothing on this scale. Our weapons laws are pretty strict as well and that usually helps.
How do people react?
For days afterwards it was the only thing people talked about. Perfect strangers would start to talk to you in waiting lines, waiting rooms and on trains and busses. Everybody felt the need to share. Most have no link with Alphen or the people who were killed and yet there is this human need to share to feel close to others, to try to understand and of course complain about what went wrong. He should never have been given a gun permit, it was all the fault of computergames and the violent ones should be banned. You hear that a lot on the street.
People in Alphen also come together to work through their grief. There was a remembrance evening on sunday and on tuesday morning the shopping centre opened again with people applauding the shopkeepers. The news showed people hugging each other and crying, laying flowers and signing condoleance registers. Anything to give what happened a place. They are the ones who will have to go back to the shopping centre and try not to think about what happened every time they shop. It is a good thing to see people come together to support each other in any way they can. Dutch victim support is there, churches are open all day long for those who want to talk, religious or not. In this way they are helping people to heal by sharing and being heard. And this way reducing the trauma of what happened. Forget? No, but to give it a place in their lives and to move on.
We should never forget people like Margriet ter Haar. This 68 year old owner of a small shop gave her own life while saving total strangers. She is a true modern hero.
I hope something good will come out of all the grief and pain. Simply that people will care about their neighbours more. Not many noticed that the 24 year old shooter was troubled. These mass shooters are often young men who are somehow not connected to society. They are lonely and often have been bullied as youngsters. I hope we will start caring for these young men, to show them that there are people who care and befriend them. We are all unique and to offer a helping hand can go such a long way, together we can make this world a happier and safer place.