One of the best part of my jobs as a reporter was meeting people.
Sure, many of them were famous, but I most enjoyed talking to ordinary folks who were thrust into the limelight because of circumstances beyond their control. It’s hard to interview famous people because you know they’ve been interviewed hundreds of times, and are sick of the same questions.
You can sense their frustration in their eyes. You can tell they want to hear that one question that no one has bothered to ask. When you fail to come up with it, when you ask what they’ve heard before, you can see their eyes start to glaze over and watch them shift from eager to slightly bored.
One of the exceptions was James Brady and his wife Sarah. I met the couple as they campaigned for tougher gun safety laws following Brady’s being shot and paralyzed during the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981. By the time I met them in the mid-90s, they were veterans of the interview circuit, but engaged and eager to talk about their cause as if they’d just begun.
What was striking about them was their passion. Though they were famous – Brady was Reagan’s press secretary – they were down-to-earth, approachable and maybe even a little folksy. I’m not really sure why this interview is so memorable, but it is. I think it was the way the couple made me feel, as though I could help them get their message out to the masses – that I could be a conduit for change.
I haven’t really felt that way again until I heard Mary Ann Jacob speak at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, CT., last month. Jacob wouldn’t call herself a hero, but she is. She was working in the library at the Sandy Hook School when a gunman charged in, killing 20 children and six adults. Jacob guided the children to safety, hiding out in a storage closet until the shooting stopped.
Though many people might retreat after such a horrific experience, Jacob is emerging as an outspoken advocate for gun safety. She’s encouraging women to take part in the national movement to end gun violence in schools, churches, malls and other public places, saying women must take the lead on this issue.
I had the privilege of hearing her speak, and asked her to write an essay for the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization of Women’s blog, which I edit. In her essay http://now-ct.org/women-key-to-stopping-gun-violence/, she outlines what needs to be done to prevent more shootings, and what average women can do to help.
One of the problems, as I see it, is there are so many grassroots movements that it’s hard to know which group to join. I am a staunch advocate for gun control, but I don’t belong to any groups. I guess you could say I’m part of the problem because I’m not part of the solution – yet.
As Jacob points out in her piece, women are ultimately the people who pick up the pieces after gun violence, whether it’s murder, domestic violence, an accidental shooting, or suicide, so we’re involved whether we know it or not. She’s laid out a blueprint of how we can be part of the solution. Now, it’s up to us to follow through.