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The Hesston Shooting

From the Perspective of a Local

By Danika Good
On March 30, 2016

The small town of Hesston, Kansas, faced a tragedy that was never imagined. On Feb. 25, a man entered an Excel Industries plant with a gun, killing three people and injuring 14 before he was shot down by authorities. As a town of less than 4,000 people, Hesston never saw this coming.

Typically when an event like this happens, everyone is concerned for a few days until the hype dies down a little, and then it is added to the entirely too-long list of mass shootings that have happened over the years. Most people just move on with their lives.

While I am completely guilty of this, too, this time is different. It is different because I, along with my sister, Ashlynn Good, first-year student, call Hesston our home.

Not only do we have family members and friends employed by Excel Industries, but the location of this shooting is directly across the street from the middle school we both attended. This is only  two blocks away from our parents’ home.

It is easy to hear about tragedies like this on the news and think it could never happen here. Now I realize that it can really happen anywhere, even my small, safe, Mennonite hometown.

What I love about my little town, though, is that instead of starting riots and rants about how guns are bad and laws need to change, the Hesston community came together to mourn, to help each other and to pray. Not only pray for those who were lost and injured, but to pray for the shooter as well.

For those who do not know, contrary to popular stereotypes, not all Mennonites drive horse and buggies, not all wear dresses and bonnets and most actually have electricity.

There are Amish communities in Kansas and other states that live the way some might imagine when they think of Mennonites, with no electricity, traveling by horse and buggy or tractor, and separating men and women during church. By attending a Mennonite church, congregations worship and baptize the same as these Amish churches but live on a much less conservative level.

One quality that all Mennonite churches share, however, is pacifism -- meaning they do not condone violence. They strive for peace in everything they do. Many Mennonites choose not to serve in the military because it is literally against their religion.

That being said, they do not condemn those who do serve in the military. They just believe there are more peaceful ways to solve conflict.

After watching endless news reports and reading countless articles on the shooting during the weeks following the event, I noticed that no one responded with anger and aggression. While there was hurt and sadness, support and grief, it was all peaceful and loving.

During the candlelight vigil and two community worship services, everyone prayed for peace among the family and friends of the shooter, peace for the victims and their loved ones, and peace around the world, with hope that maybe some day we will see an end to this hatred and violence.

Some might argue this is unproductive. How can this help? But members of Hesston would argue that responding in anger and aggression is also unproductive. How does adding more violence help stop the violence?

It is easy to forget to appreciate where you come from, but it is safe to say that I have an even greater appreciation for my hometown and the denomination I grew up in after the tragic event. My hope is that Hesston can inspire others to consider peace as a priority in life, and maybe it will lead to a change in the world.

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