(AP) Residents of this part of Pennsylvania have been watching and grieving, along with other people across the nation, as mass shootings have grown both in frequency and in the toll of death, injury, profound sadness and psychological wounds they have inflicted.
However, unlike the tragedies that this region has witnessed from afar, Sunday's mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, hit close to home — specifically, Saint Francis University in Loretto. Nicholas Cumer, 25, a Saint Francis graduate student who was a week away from completing an internship at the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance in Dayton, was one of the nine people gunned down by a person identified as Connor Betts, 24, who was wielding a rifle with magazines capable of holding at least 100 rounds of ammunition.
Regarding Cumer, whose family resides in Washington, Pa., Betts snuffed out the life of someone destined for a caring, compassionate, productive future. A week ago, Maple Tree had offered him a full-time position to run one of its new offices. In a Facebook post and on its website, Maple Tree said, “Nick is remembered for his hard work and dedication to Maple Tree. He loved his patients and served them well, with a loving and caring spirit. He continuously went above and beyond our expectations and worked with a high level of excellence. He was well-liked and respected by everyone on our team.''
Those thoughts were mirrored by SFU President Father Malachi Van Tassell, who on Sunday praised Cumer's “dedication to caring for others.'' Van Tassell noted that Cumer was recognized at the 2019 Community Engagement Awards among students who had completed 100-plus hours of service. “We join the nation in mourning Nicholas, alongside all of the victims of this tragedy,'' Van Tassell continued. “Our thoughts and prayers are with their family and friends during this most difficult time.''
Amid the reactions that have poured forth since news of the Dayton incident sprung forth, just hours after gunfire in El Paso, Texas, where the death toll has risen to 22, hovers the question “When will it all end and by what decisions, what courage and what actions?'' If the future is like the past, however, after a few days or weeks, Dayton and El Paso will simply be two additional places added to the roster of such horrific events. Perhaps this region likewise would turn its attention quickly to other issues, choosing not to reflect on the hard questions at the root of this problem.
However, the fact that this problem has crossed the threshold of this region hopefully will make central Pennsylvania determined to keep it in the forefront, going forward. The problem won't be minimized — it probably won't ever be totally solved — unless it remains out front in public discussion, with elected officials present. Let such an effort be cemented in place here. Nicholas Cumer and his talents at helping people are gone, but hopefully he will be able to live on in inspiring others to understand that merely hoping there won't be a next time is not enough.
The Altoona Mirror