Bay Reflection

Vol. 8, No. 20
May 18-24, 2000
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Me and A Million Other Moms
By Kitty O’Dowd

I celebrated Mother’s Day 2000 — my third Mother’s Day of being a mom — at the Million Mom March at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Venturing by metro into D.C. with me were my husband, Tom; three-year-old son, Kyle; and our Finnish exchange student, Himmi.

As we neared the crowd on this pleasantly warm spring day, what struck me first was the turnout: So many moms, kids, husbands and entire families, many clad in Million Mom T-shirts. But what stopped me dead in my tracks was the story coming from the stage, where a mother retold how her son had been killed with a handgun.

The art teacher from Columbine High School next recounted the day of the shooting and the long healing process continuing at the school and in the community. Then another mom came up to the stage to talk about her child’s death by a gun. And so the stories went, each calling for stricter gun control laws, each reminding us of the power of the mothers’ vote.

Many more stories were taped to the Wall of Names. On this triangular model of the Vietnam Memorial Wall were listed the names of the children who died from guns — just since Columbine. It was staggering to stare at.

Throughout the day, musicians Melissa Manchester, Raffi, Melissa Etheridge and Emmylou Harris repeated the message in their own special ways. When Raffi said he should be singing “the times they are a changin’,” a huge cheer rose.

Stars and politicians took up the refrain.

Mistress of Ceremonies Rosie O’Donnell introduced actress Susan Sarandon, who said that 32,000 people will die from gun violence this year.

Anna Quindlen, author of One True Thing and Black and Blue, said “we’re the mothers who willingly struggle with child-proof medicine bottles, yet Congress can’t seem to pass safety locks on guns?”

Courtney Love spoke of the death of her husband Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide with a gun. She told of how Kurt suffered from depression and how, shortly before his death, he had befriended a man who was mentally unbalanced. This man was able to purchase a gun, in a gun shop, and the very next day Cobain used it to shoot himself. Many young people who suffer from depression, Love said, look at what her husband did as a way to end their own depression. But, she said, that’s not the way.

U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy, of New York, spoke of her husband, who was shot to death, and her son, shot but not killed by a student in a New York school. Pointing to the Capitol, she said, “that’s where I work, and I’m one of you.”

When Kathleen Kennedy Townsend — our own lieutenant governor, who knows all too well the horror of gun violence — took the stage, I was one of many wondering how things would be different today if President John Kennedy had lived, perhaps to be followed by his brother, Kathleen’s father, Robert Kennedy. Perhaps Columbine would never have happened.

Perhaps 12 children would not be killed in our country each day. Perhaps there would be no need for a million moms to march. Perhaps …

Most dynamic of all the speakers for gun control was nine-year-old Ciceley Renee Coty, Miss National Stop the Violence American Queen. She said that 2,558 children under the age of 22 died in 1998 due to gun violence. Soon she had everyone chanting “Stop the violence, put the guns down, children are the future, more sensible gun laws.”

“I hope you’ve gotten the point,” young Miss National Stop the Violence concluded.

Every mother and child there got the point.

If our elected officials don’t, then come November millions of mothers and children will elect representatives who will.

In one of many tents devoted to Million Mom materials, computers connected visitors to Here, we could begin to exercise our power, registering to vote or signing a petition for stricter gun control laws. In a list of six proposed gun laws, registration and licensing came out on top.

I am proud to be a mom and proud to be part of a powerful movement for positive change. When my three-year-old is ready for school, I don’t want to have to worry about him getting shot. Now I’m one of a million mothers who will vote his way to safety.

O’Dowd, of Lusby, is Bay Weekly’s Calvert County ad rep.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly