A family’s gun and the girl in the flowers
This week Hana St. Juliana will not have the things a normal high schooler celebrates. Just 14-years old, Hana had it all to look forward to. The team parties after a big sports victory. A first date. A first kiss. A graduation. A college application process and acceptance. A prom. The high school things.
She gets none of those, ever.
This is the week of Hana St. Juliana’s funeral. You only get one of those.
Hana St. Juliana. I didn’t know her. I was drawn to her lyrically poetic name. And of what ethnicity? It was a saint’s name. She’s with the sainted now.
Hana St. Juliana was one of the four students killed at Oxford High School in Michigan this week.
America is so diverse these days that whenever there’s a shooting at a school or workplace, or whenever there’s any mass violence event, I always hold my breath to see if there were any Asian Americans involved.
All life is sacred, of course, no matter what ethnicity.
But being a chronicler/commentator of all things Filipino and AAPI, I pay close attention specifically for “Asianness.”
I had even checked the demographics of Oxford, Michigan. About 90 percent white, according to web sources. The odds were good there likely would be no AAPIs in the story. But then I saw St. Juliana’s picture. Definitely, something in her look.
And then I saw a Detroit TV station’s report, where the local anchor pronounced her name “Hannah,” only to be quickly corrected. “It’s Hana,” the field reporter said.
As in the drive to Hana, that legendary destination on the other side of the island in Maui, Hawaii. The field reporter was newly sensitized to the name having just talked to Hana’s distraught parents.
That and the picture was enough for me to confirm the presence of “Asianness.”
When it comes to these national traumatic events, it’s almost impossible not to pay attention. And given the number of instances of anti-Asian violence has risen to more than 10,000, as documented by #StopAAPIHate, can you afford not to?
And yet I have a friend who believes Asian Americans don’t pay attention to these violent stories in the news unless it involves someone like them. Well, this one hit home.
As I looked at Hana’s picture, I realized I was drawn to it because she looked like my three kids. That combination of mixed Asian; Asian American Filipino and white. That usually doesn’t happen in these kind of news stories.
Every time I saw a news update showing Hana as one of the victims, the picture drew me in closer because it looked like one of my daughters. They’re all adults now. But I remember when I was their coach for the Under-15 year old girls. Soccer. Hana was a volleyball and basketball player. It’s all the same.
What can I say? Hana St. Juliana brought out the parent in me. Each time the Michigan story came up, I felt oddly compelled to text at least one of my daughters.
“U Ok? Luv Dad.”
It’s just a reaction to be in touch. Just like the kids who felt compelled to text when they were trapped in a classroom at Oxford High. In between moments of genuine fear and terror, a tearful text, an expression of love. To mom. Or dad. Or grandma.
Hana wasn’t so lucky. She was in the hallway, as 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, armed with his dad’s 9 mm handgun, opened fire.
It was his father’s gun, bought four days before the shooting. What was Ethan Crumbley doing with his dad’s gun at school? That’s bad parenting.
That’s why the Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald was right to go after the parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley.
Ethan already is charged as an adult with one count of terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm.
McDonald charged the parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter.
It was the most, but also the least she could have done.
Even if you think it’s right to buy a 14-year old a gun under the guise of it being a “family” gun, it’s still your right as a parent to act responsibly. How is the gun secured and when does a minor have access to it? Supervised? At a gun range? Anytime he feels like playing real life “Call To Duty”?
Look at how America has evolved. It used to be a child would beg his parents for a family dog.
Now it’s the family gun?
It sure doesn’t clean up as easily with a poopy bag.
Apparently, the Crumbleys were fairly lax with it all, based on the messages they sent to each other. When the mother was told that her son was looking for ammo on the internet while in school, she advised her son to learn how not to get caught.
Hours before the shooting that day, the parents were even brought in by school officials to discuss Ethan’s notes that indicated a despair and willingness to do violence. Drawings of people shot? He was designing a video game, he said, according to reports.
But did the parents offer to take their son away from class to attend to his psychological needs? No, they sent him back to class, and the school allowed it. The school is going to have to answer for that.
The Crumbleys didn’t help their cause when they went on the lam after being charged on Friday, and then found hiding in a Detroit warehouse on Saturday.
They are now in the same jail, on $500,000 bond each, but in separate cells from their son.
The shooting at Oxford High, all around, has truly become a tragic family affair.
But is there a doubt that good parenting would have been good gun control, that would have prevented senseless deaths?
Understandably, Hana’s parents have been too distraught to talk to any media and deferred to their close friends and neighbors, Jennifer and Shannon Curtis, who had treated Hana like a member of their family.
“She was just a kind kid, would never say anything bad about anybody or act out,” said Shannon Curtis to CBS Local in Detroit. “She cared about people.”
“She was a beautiful young lady, inside and out,” Curtis’ wife, Jennifer, added. “She had a big bright smile and I can’t believe she’s not here.”
There is absolutely nothing bad you can say about a 14-year-old who was a star volleyball player, and about to debut on the basketball team, and had really just begun to live. Nothing. All of life was yet to come. The big stuff. All of it.
It usually doesn’t come all at once, not in the first year of high school. But now, all we’re left with is an image. Of a girl standing in the flowers. And the name.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a column for Inquirer.net’s North American Bureau.See his podcast on www.amok.com See his livestream