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
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT