I am writing to you today with profound sadness for the 19 elementary students and two teachers murdered on Tuesday during the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
For the 10 people who were murdered at the Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo, New York. For the victims of the Geneva Presbyterian Church shooting in Laguna Woods, California.
As I read through the profiles of the children who perished on Tuesday, I kept coming back to Jason Fagone’s piece for Highline, “What Bullets Do to Bodies,” in which he followed a Philadelphia trauma surgeon whose job it was stitch back together the victims of gun violence. In the piece, he details procedures like how doctors crack open the sternum and rib cage to repair damage to the heart and lungs. And, how sometimes doctors have to clamp off blood flow to the lower extremities, which causes the tissue to die and forces them to amputate. He shares the stories of patients who have undergone more than a dozen surgeries, how their intestines stick out of their bodies and gastric acid eats away at their skin.
I thought it was important to share this story with you today because I think Jason’s story holds a key lesson for how journalists should be covering gun violence. (As does this piece on how the media can report more compassionately on the topic.) We mourn the victims and their families and talk endlessly about the politics of gun reform. But we don’t talk so much about the physical devastation it brings to the victims — both the living and the dead. Much like with war, we can’t know the true costs unless we confront the cold reality of what bullets do to bodies.
Gun violence is gruesome. We shouldn’t sanitize that.