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  • Nick Luhring

Me and Mr. Barnes

Some time last year, I was introduced to Kenny Barnes Sr. through a mutual friend and colleague, Johnny Coleman of Anthro21. We had a shared goal, which was to identify public and mental health metrics that relate to the amount of gun violence an area is subject to, and then give voices to those affected by it. This mission of ours was fueled by each of our own personal experiences.

Mr. Barnes' story goes like this: in September of 2001, his son Kenny Barnes Jr., was shot and killed in Washington DC after closing up his newly opened clothing boutique. The young man who killed him had been in and out of the juvenile correction system, where his mental health was not looked over with any care. The event precipitated the creation of ROOT Inc, which the elder Barnes put his life savings into.

My story goes like this: in April of 2007, only a month from graduating college, my school was attacked by one of its own students, in an event we now call the Virginia Tech Massacre. One of my cohorts and classmates, Colin Goddard, called 911 to get help after being shot in the leg and buttocks. A total of 33 people died that day; 32 innocents and the shooter himself, who committed suicide shortly before the police arrived.

Our stories contrast each other but represent the struggle that America goes through at both ends of the spectrum. Thousands of homicides are committed with guns every year, but the acts can be somewhat categorically separated.

For Mr. Barnes, inner city violence stemming from a failed drug war and an abundance of poverty is what caused the murder of his son. For Virginia Tech and its students and faculty, it was a single person going on a spree...a school shooting meant to put as much damage to a people as possible.

But even from these contrasting forms of violence, we can learn, grow, and heal. So begins the next chapter in addressing violence, let's figure out how and why these shootings occur with statistics, then go about expressing the emotional turmoil that results.

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