This “My View” piece was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican on Friday, May 19, 2023. I wrote it in response to the tragedy in Farmington, New Mexico, that happened on Monday of that week. My husband and I lived in that town for thirty years, and only recently moved to Santa Fe.
Mass shooting in Farmington. My friends there are calling this unthinkable—“We’re a small, quiet town. It’s not supposed to happen here.” And then on Monday morning, it happened. What we know is that an eighteen year old with three guns walked through a neighborhood and fired at houses, cars, and people. Three women were killed because they were driving in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two police officers were wounded. More people were injured.
I lived in Farmington for thirty years. This week it was heartbreaking to watch from two hundred miles away as the details of the tragedy unfolded. I texted friends there to make sure they could answer, and spent time scrolling on social media looking for more “marked safe” notices from my wider circle. I was relieved to find they were all safe, and then felt guilty about the families and friends of the victims who did not escape the gunfire.
Farmington is a community where the majority of people seem to believe in God, guns, individual liberty, hard work, the energy extraction industry, heterosexuality, fast food, and patriotism. Elsewhere, I am fairly moderate. There I was an outsider, a flaming liberal who did Peace Corps service, kept my last name when I got married, and spent too many years in graduate school. I hated the politics there even as I never hated my friends and neighbors who disagreed with me. It was complicated place for me.
Farmington is also a community where people know their neighbors. Everyone in town might not have known the victims personally, but everyone in town knows someone who knew them. The connections are tight and will help the community through this crisis. There are many good things about this community and we are seeing it now as people pull together to support each other.
But I hope for more for Farmington and for all of us. I hope for an awakening that enough is enough. I hope this for all the communities who have suffered this senseless violence, indeed for our country. No one outside the military should have an assault rifle. People with mental health issues and records of violence should not be allowed to own guns. We keep writing to the newspaper. We march. We sign petitions. We call and write to our representatives in Washington, DC. Nothing seems to make a difference.
Mass shootings can happen anywhere. None of us can truly mark ourselves safe until something changes. What will it take? I hope and pray we can figure it out and stop the anger and craziness before it kills more of us.