Skip to main content

Our dad didn't let evil get the last word

By Kerry Cahill and Keely Vanacker, Special to CNN
December 28, 2012 -- Updated 0307 GMT (1107 HKT)
Michael Grant Cahill, the authors' father, was shot six times during the Fort Hood shooting in 2009.
Michael Grant Cahill, the authors' father, was shot six times during the Fort Hood shooting in 2009.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cahill and Vanacker: Our father was murdered in the Fort Hood shooting in 2009
  • They ask: What are we doing to prevent these tragic shootings?
  • We need training for our teachers and police officers, they say
  • They ask: Gun sales are rising, but is commitment to prevention rising with it?

Editor's note: Kerry Cahill is an advocate, writer and at-risk student educator. Keely Vanacker is a high school counselor and mother of two.

(CNN) -- When our father, Michael Grant Cahill, was murdered in the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting on November 5, 2009, we were barraged with the question, "What can we do?" People wanted to help, get milk, make us casserole and assist relatives with travel. Support was everywhere.

That support remains. In the wake of shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Oak Creek, and too many more places, people are asking again, "What can we do?"

First, we must stop asking "why?" and start asking "why not?" In other words, what are we doing to prevent these tragic shootings?

Opinion: Patterns and warning signs

Keely Vanacker (left) and Kerry Cahill
Keely Vanacker (left) and Kerry Cahill

These events are caused by a perfect storm of issues. These include the proliferation of assault rifles and clips of 30 to 100 rounds, access to mental health support or lack of it, and, most important, falling short in our efforts of prevention. It is a sinking ship, and we must start filling the holes.

Holes made by guns that shoot 45 rounds in 1 minute, like the semi-automatic rifle used in Newtown. Holes inspired by the glorification of the shooters in previous shootings. Their life-size faces on the cover of Time magazine, bought by you, and dominating the Internet sites you browse, while the fallen are left in the photo albums of their families. Holes made by the lack of help and understanding in our country's mental health. Holes made by the fact that the Newtown children are not the only children we have lost to mass shootings. They are the unfortunate 20 who made us realize the water is up to our throats.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



The water is rising. What hole can you fill?

Can you think about prevention rather than reaction by supporting programs in our schools that encourage our children to look out for one another? Can you be honest about what it would take to defend yourself against an assault rifle? Can you pay attention to important legislation and contact your congressman and senators to show support or share your thoughts? Can you stop saying, "Glad it wasn't me" and start saying "What if it was me?"

We cannot continue accepting that "these things happen" and "you will never stop evil." Those statements ensure that more innocents will die.

'Enough': Celebs' PSA against shootings
Cop: Gunman set up to shoot firefighters
LaPierre's response 'irresponsible'

Our father charged a gun outfitted with 30-round extended clips and was shot six times. Dad never let evil get the last word. He never looked at a problem and thought it was hopeless. We must do the same, and we must be honest: sacrificing our pride and admitting that we, as a nation, have a problem.

We need training for our teachers and police officers. Training that doesn't just focus on how to react to shootings but knows the community and makes relationships that lead to safer communities.

Opinion: Freedom Group, a gunmaker ripe for an ethical takeover

Programs such as Rachel's Challenge started after the Columbine shooting by the parents of the first student killed, Rachel Joy Scott. The Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, started after the Oklahoma City Bombing, which trains police officers not just to recognize danger but how to create communities that are more aware. "Random actor" trainings, by Dan Korem, teaching educators how to identify possible mass shooters, focus on at-risk kids and help those students.

Gun sales are rising, but is the support for the families affected by some of those guns and commitment to prevention rising with it?

Here is the question we are haunted by: "What is wrong with us that it takes 20 children dying in one shooting to make us change?" And some of us still won't. We have to address the answers, and we have to have the conversation. Let's start fixing the problem instead of treating the symptoms.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT