Del. Ken Plum: A Letter From Newtown

Del. Ken Plum/File photoOn the 14th of each month, the anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I join dozens of others at a vigil at the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax to remind everyone of the need for sensible gun safety measures.

After the most recent vigil, I got an email from Erin Nikitchyuk, which I share with her permission to remind us of how we all need to be concerned about this issue.

“I lived in Reston from the age of two and returned after college, settling in Herndon. We landed in New England after graduate school and eventually in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, Connecticut. It’s a place that reminds us very much of Reston in so many ways. In fact, I know of six other Restonians who ended up here, too. Sandy Hook is very much like a New England version of the Hunters Woods or Lake Anne communities where we have our own “town center” inside the bigger town of Newtown.

I remember your name in the news all the time–it always caught my eye even though I was never very engaged in following politics, especially at a young age. (My maiden name is Pflaum, which is German for Plum, and I always thought how much simpler it would be to just be Plum, too!).

I was the same age as my son is now when you were elected to office. My son, “Bear” as he’s known to just about everyone, was a third-grader last year at Sandy Hook School. On that morning of 12/14, he should have been safe at the back of the school with the rest of the older kids, but he and his classmate had the much-coveted helper assignments of office and cafeteria messengers. He had just dropped off the attendance forms in the office and was turning to head back to class with his classmate when the window a few yards behind them shattered from gunfire. They were shot at and ran down the hall where a teacher broke lock-down to reach out and pull them to safety.  

Today on my Facebook feed, someone had shared the photo of you at this month’s protest on 3/14 in front of the National Rifle Association. I wanted to reach out and thank you personally for being there. It is a brave thing for politicians to take such definitive and public actions on issues, especially divisive ones like guns and especially in a state with a healthy and thriving gun culture.

Our town here still reels from the losses. From my house to just about anywhere I drive, I pass seven homes that should have happy second graders in them and one cemetery with a small stone that should not be there. Many days the mental list of names I unintentionally recite as I pass each house still brings me to tears. No town should be like this. There is not a 14th of the month that goes unnoticed now. We realize it is a rare town that has a tragedy like this, but for many of us it drives home the fact that communities suffer these losses daily, just like a slow-motion mass murder, and they grieve and reel as we do.  

 There are so many common sense things that we can embrace to keep guns only in responsible hands. Thank you so much for standing up with us and doing so publicly, especially standing in front of the organization that works so hard to keep us from common sense change.”

Thank you, Erin, for writing. The issue can affect any of us at any moment.

 Ken Plum represents Reston in the Virginia House of Delegates. He writes weekly on Reston Now.

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