Devastating voices of our children

Marian Wright Edelman | 4/1/2013, 4:46 a.m.

“My friends are dead.

I saw the bad man. He was next to me when we ran out.”

“I played ball with him. Now he is dead.”

“My friend got killed cause she didn’t hide good enough.”

“Do you think it is my fault?”

(NNPA) These are some of the devastating voices of children from Sandy Hook Elementary School. Elaine Zimmerman, the executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Children, joined by others, has been offering support to children and families in Newtown, Conn., since the shootings at their school in December 2012. She shared these quotes at a recent Harvard Graduate School of Education Ask with Forum where she, PBS NewsHour correspondent and Learning Matters President John Merrow, and I participated in a panel on school violence. Less than 2 percent of fatal gun violence against children takes place at school, but everyone’s heart broke with Zimmerman’s as she told the audience, “I am haunted by the child who said, ‘There is nothing you can do or say that will convince me that this will not happen again.’”

Although many children in the school building and school system were not physically hurt on Dec. 14, all these children and their siblings were also victims of the horrific violence that day. They carry an enormous burden and are paying an incalculable price that may never disappear. It’s the same price paid by children 50 miles away in Hartford’s North End ‒ though the gun violence there and in inner cities across the country does not always make headlines, adding another layer of anger and frustration about feeling invisible on top of the Black community’s already deep pain. From rural Southern communities to small Midwestern towns, child and adult survivors of gun violence all over America pay a high price every day. The psychological and emotional toll of gun violence on bystanders, victims and families can be overwhelming and leaves effects that last for years.

What about the costs we can count? In addition to the trauma that is so deep and pervasive that it is harder to quantify, there are actual costs to gun violence that can be measured and are enormous. Victims and families often find themselves paying a high economic price while struggling with the emotional one, and other taxpayers share the economic burden.

A recent study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that gun injuries and deaths in 2010 cost the country $8.4 billion in medical and mental health care, emergency services, and administrative and criminal justice costs. Those shot and killed and their families and employers were estimated to have lost $52.5 billion in wages and productivity due to death or injury. This adds up to a total of $60.8 billion, 20 percent of which was borne by local, state and federal governments. On top of these costs to the victims, their families, employers and taxpayers, the researchers also estimated the economic value of the pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life among those shot and their families to total an additional $113.3 billion.