Every Thanksgiving, I head to beautiful Colorado Springs to share the holiday with my family. It was a typical holiday - filled with gratitude and too much turkey. On Friday, I took my mother to run errands - everyday errands like grocery shopping and to pick up a prescription from the Veterans Administration clinic.
It was a cold day in the city. The streets were icy and there were snow flurries in the air. I pulled up to the VA entrance to let my mom out at the front door. She went inside, and as I started to look around for a parking spot, I was stopped by swirling sirens coming up behind me, in front of me and all around.
A few people came out of the clinic cautiously. There was a look of confusion and caution on their faces. Then I heard a loud pop and those who were outside ran to their cars. Someone yelled, "active shooter!" I entered the clinic quickly to find my mom. We were told there was an active shooter in the Planned Parenthood clinic across the street. Our hearts sank and our heads swirled in the confusion - feelings that too many Americans have experienced.
It has happened before and it was happening again. This appears to be the standard for Colorado in the 21st century. As President Obama said in his statement about the shooting "enough is enough." I echo and underscore the voices of reason that call for stricter gun control especially toward those who have no business wielding such deadly weapons.
We still do not know all the details, but we know now that innocent men and women were shot, injured and killed by a man with a disturbed mission and a gun. We know that one of our brave first responders, Officer Garret Swasey was taken from his family and from our community. There is still a lot we do not know, but like Mayor John Suthers said in the wake of the shooting, it is easy to infer the motive from "where it took place."
This was a literal attack on women.
With the little information we still have, we are left to speculate on the specific circumstances of yet another unspeakable tragedy that leaves our community trying to put the pieces back together. This particular crime brings many critical issues to the forefront of our national conversation. We have already started to discuss gun control, women's rights and reproductive freedoms. But as we have these necessary discussions, we should not just say enough is enough with respect to gun violence; we should say enough is enough to the vitriolic and violent rhetoric.
Presidential candidate Marco Rubio called Planned Parenthood "barbaric"; candidate Ted Cruz falsely and carelessly blamed Planned Parenthood for having children "grown and killed for their body parts". Carly Fiorina, in a nationally televised debate, said that Planned Parenthood videos showed images that fact checkers found unverifiable. After being pressed on the lack of truth behind the videos, she pivoted to the "character of a nation." Character. You cannot condemn the acts of the shooter but feed the dangerous and dishonest arguments in the national discussion about choice.
This is not the first time that I have been on the scene of an active shooter. This was the second. The first was in 2007 when a man, calling himself the emperor, came into the state Capitol building intent on killing the governor and everyone else in his path. Both incidents left fatalities. Both times first responders rushed to protect the lives of people they did not know and in the case of Officer Garret Swasey, he gave his life for a cause he didn't believe in. That is character. Character we should all respect, admire and aspire to possess. I challenge Carly Fiorina to aspire to such.
This act of domestic terrorism must be a call of reckoning on many fronts. The shooter's fight was one against progressive ideals, which many of us cherish and will not denounce. I refuse to permit this terrorist act to shape my new normal. I will fight and advocate always for women's rights, stricter gun control laws and, yes, better mental health treatment and access to it. And I demand a responsible dialog on all issues including those on which we disagree.
We will continue to mourn those who lost their lives in this horrible tragedy and pray for their loved ones and for those who were injured.
But as I mourn, I fight for a better character of a nation. One that is free from senseless gun violence and where progressive ideas take root all around us. And today, and everyday, I stand with Planned Parenthood.