The last time I saw my dad was in March of 2007. It was my last year at the University of Virginia, and I was on spring break. I had the flu, so he drove 268 miles round trip to come get me. I don’t remember much of the car ride home, but I do remember my time on the living room sofa. “Oh look, it’s the Plague,” he said gleefully. “Came to give us your sickness, huh?”
He spent countless hours with me that break—me sloshy with medicine, him sloshy with delight. Despite the flu, it was a wonderful holiday. I was with the people I loved best—my dad, my mum, my sister. I was sorry when he dropped me off at school, but I knew I’d see him soon.
I didn’t realize that seeing him soon meant seeing him dead.
On April 16th, 2007, my father, Dr. G.V. Loganathan, was killed in the Virginia Tech shooting. A professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, he was teaching students in Norris Hall when he was shot in the back of the head. Thirty-one others were killed that day, not including the shooter. Approximately 17 more were injured.
His murder was, in a word, devastating. My father had been many things to many people—researcher, teacher, colleague, mentor, friend. But to us? He was our sun, our heart. We would have followed him anywhere, but someone had murdered him, and where he went we could not go.
The foundations of my world crumbled. I returned to school, but it was an ill fit. It was hard to focus on engineering—something I associated with my father—when words such as guns, dead, injured, active shooter appeared in the news with greater frequency. The Virginia Tech shooting, I was realizing, wasn’t an anomaly or a one-off: it was a bloody epidemic.
My epiphany did not come in a single moment, but in separate beats. A lockdown at my mother’s place of work. A lockdown at my sister’s high school. Aurora. More lockdowns at work, at school. Shootings in Chicago. Tuscon. The death toll was piling. My government, for all its military strength and first world status, was failing to keep us safe. I realized that if I didn’t do something, no one would.
In 2007, gun violence was not a topic of discussion amongst the public or within government. This was surprising, if only for the level of influence government has in our everyday lives. Everything, from the price of fruit in the store to the roads you drive on, is shaped by the government. It was stunning to think that the murder of 32 people every day (not including suicide) in cities across the United States was barely mentioned. By the time I began more regular advocacy work in 2010, gun violence was grudgingly spoken of. The influence of the NRA was deep, though, and it stymied progress. Many politicians professed that their hands were tied. They were afraid of the NRA in a way that they weren’t afraid of their own constituents. After all, the NRA was at their doorstep every day; their constituents couldn’t be bothered to call.
My gut burned. Despite the obstacles, I continued to push. I wrote letters. I called my representatives. I met with them in person. I worked with non-profit organizations. I did public outreach. I met other survivors of gun violence. There was incremental progress—people were listening and politicians were taking more notice. And it was all too slow.
The Sandy Hook shooting happened December 14, 2012—six days after what would have been my father’s 58th birthday. I felt numb, even as the country mourned. But then, something shifted. For the first time, gun violence became the primary topic of our national discourse. It was as if people finally realized gun violence could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. People were no longer content to wait—they wanted action.
Action to create change comes about through steady work and pivotal moments. While Sandy Hook was the spark that ignited national conversation, it was Parkland that pushed the conversation forward.
The Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day 2018 shook me to my core. Like Sandy Hook, like every shooting since 2007, it caused me to relive Virginia Tech all over again. For days, I struggled to speak. But again, something shifted. The students themselves spoke up the very next day, demanding action. And the nation demanded action with them.
We still have a long way to go. At the time, Virginia Tech shooting was the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. As of today, it continues to be the largest school shooting in American history. Currently, 92 people die every day by guns in the United States. So far, almost 7,000 people died by gun this year alone. For 2018, Parkland is the 7th school shooting and the 18th school gun firing incident this year. Since then, there have been several other incidents of gun violence—both in schools and out.
But we are not helpless. Here in the United States, we have an opportunity to interact with our government and make demands on our lawmakers that no other country in the world has. Write to your representatives and your senators. Call them. Show up. Volunteer for campaigns and non-profits. Most importantly, vote. Vote in every election, no matter how small. Vote for politicians who don’t just pay lip service and then quietly support the NRA—hold them accountable. A republic is only as good as the engagement of its citizens. Don’t just be an informed voter—be engaged. Be involved. And never, ever be silent. Your voice matters far more than you know.
Active shooter drills will not save our children. Arming teachers will not save them—teachers are burdened enough as it is. It is unlikely that a teacher will shoot better than a trained police officer, who only hits his target 18 percent of the time in gun fights. Instead, we must accept that with rights come responsibilities. Most importantly, we must accept that every single person matters. If even one person can be saved, then action is worth it. We owe it to our communities. We owe it to ourselves.
We, the people of the United States, hang suspended in a defining moment. Students across the country have shown us the way. We must be bold and follow their lead. And we must make sure #NeverAgain isn’t just a hashtag— but a nationwide commitment.