San Jose, CA

San Jose in the wake of a national tragedy

Vic Aquino

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Photo by: Sundry photography

(op-ed)

It's the recurring mass shooting nightmare that causes numbing heartbreak.

It’s an unacceptable on-going pain.

In San Jose on Wednesday, that raw societal wound was reopened again. A nationwide trauma that never heals.

A too common and too familiar gun-related tragedy unfolded at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency (VTA) when a disgruntled worker took the lives of nine loved ones before taking his own life.

From various reports of the mass shooter, 57-year-old Sam Cassidy had long lost touch with his humanity; implying that there were some early warning signs before he went on a selective rampage.

The context...again

Mass shootings go back far enough and deep enough in the U.S. that it’s a dark part of our national identity. From inside and outside the country, it’s been an undeniable embarrassment.

So far, this year we’re approaching an almost unbelieveable 200 mass shootings.

From just this past weekend, around the nation there were 12 mass shootings with 11 people killed and 69 wounded.

In the Bay Area, the San Jose VTA horror was the fifth and worst high-profile mass shooting in the last decade:

  • 2011 in Cupertino: three killed, seven wounded at Lehigh Cement
  • 2012 in Oakland: seven killed, three wounded at Oikos University
  • 2017 in San Francisco: four killed at UPS
  • 2019 in Gilroy: three killed, 17 wounded at the Garlic Festival

Local and state leaders gathered quickly by midday Wednesday just a short distance from the VTA location to speak on national television. From governor Gavin Newsom to San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo to Santa Clara sheriff Laurie Smith to San Jose council member Cindy Chavez, each spoke their best words to help us start to cope and get us to ask the infamous question again.

When are we going to update the policies and gun laws in what is plainly the right thing to do?

It’s a deeply rooted issue that delves into our manipulated ideologies - to the point some people literally die for beliefs that were sewn into their psyches by the firearms industry.

The prep and PR machine

The undertone of speeches and the media machine this week also speak of the heroes and the preparedness that minimized the devastation and protected the public.

The readiness is business-like nowadays. Quick reactions to the sensational, where everyone knows their lanes and says the right things.

It's like some evil business model silently profiting off pain and sorrow behind all the mourning.

Most people are waiting and waiting and waiting for our leaders to sustain a proactive stance to fight through. It’s all the money and self-interests that unfortunately is the boring stuff within the disgusting politics to fight through.

In those political chambers is where the teeth of the matter lie, while we go back to sleep again before the next terror awakening.

San Jose, so close and too close to home

Knowing of people who work for the VTA or once worked there, the first thing is panic and worry that come to mind, but immediately after the shock, it becomes less surprising that certain places of employment can exacerbate certain mental conditions.

As notorious as the postal environment has become known, the VTA similarly echoes that from afar.

A very close relative often mentioned seeing and experiencing constant contentiousness between postal managers and their subordinates.

Another friend who worked at the VTA in the 1990s says he was “luckily” terminated for assaulting his manager. He admitted it could have been worse and that years later he understands things haven’t changed all that much. Fortunately, friends and family intervened.

A current acquaintance at the VTA mentioned employees were explicitly told not to discuss any internal dynamics or anything remotely related to the unfortunate event, which is the common protection-mode for big businesses, but that only works for so long. People will undoubtedly talk from the inside.

And the life of another distant VTA acquaintance hung in the balance from severe gunshot wounds, but passed away Wednesday night.

The victims we now mourn: Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; and Lars Kepler Lane, 63; Alex Ward Fritch, 49.

And we keep asking, "What now?"

Is our national trauma beyond repair? A realist may have to say “yes” after 100 years of mass shootings.

Does the pain, rhetoric and vigils continue to move on from city to city and we just get better at preparing, responding and reacting - while the few continue to over-rationalization the right to own arms to the extreme?

How much more tragedy before a single, unified force of truth can finally stop these kinds of events?

Continue to ask the questions - why and what is so powerful behind-the-scenes that we allow these massacres to keep happening to every generation?

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A 50+ year San Jose-native focusing on social awareness, social good, social impact and the hidden gems and treasures of the area. Freelance journalist & sports contributor to SB Nation, Bay Area News Group & SF 49ers (@VicD_SJ on Twitter).

San Jose, CA
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