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Family ties to Kalamazoo shatter routine of death

By JACK WALSWORTH/ VN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
On February 23, 2016

Like many Americans, I awoke to some disturbing news on Sunday.

Another rash of fatal shootings had broken out. However, these killings were in Kalamazoo, an area I’m somewhat familiar with.

Six people were killed and two others wounded.

Given the frequency of mass shootings in just the past year, I cannot, in good faith, say that I was surprised that another one had taken place.

What President Obama said in October following a mass shooting at a community college in Oregon remains accurate.

“Somehow this has become routine,” he said. “The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.”

I remember watching that address and noticing how visibly frustrated our president was.

And he was right. I did feel somewhat numb when the shooting happened in Oregon. Same goes for the December shootings in San Bernardino, Calif.

However, the news out of Kalamazoo had me feeling different for one reason.

Kalamazoo has roots within my family.

My dad is a Western Michigan University graduate. My parents lived in Kalamazoo before I was around. My older sister was born there.

Later, living in Illinois, my family would drive on I-94 and pass through Kalamazoo countless times when going to visit family or heading to University of Michigan football games.

If time allowed, we would often stop at either the Coney Island right downtown or the Root Beer Stand, two local favorites.

When it was time for me to look at colleges, Western was at the top of my list from the beginning.

Kalamazoo has a special place in both of my parents’ hearts and I liked the idea of going to school in a town that they love.

I obviously did not choose Western but had I not gone to UDM, there’s a good chance I would have ended up in Kalamazoo.

But even at UDM, there are Kalamazoo connections.

I’ve meet a handful of people from the area. One of my best friends, Adam, is from Portage, the next town over.

When I visited Adam one summer, we randomly bumped into a fellow UDM student, Nathan, who’s from the area, at a pizza place in downtown Kalamazoo.

It’s the kind of place that even when you’re not from there, you’ll see someone you know.

Tucked halfway between Chicago and Detroit, Kalamazoo is filled with good, Midwestern people.

That’s why what happened doesn’t make any sense. Not that mass shootings like these ever do.

Hopefully in the coming days, some questions as to why this happened will be answered.

With the Flint water crisis, the Detroit Public Schools being in disarray and now these shootings, the state of Michigan has seen better days, to put it lightly.

A lot of attention is on the mitten state.

Yet, it seems whenever Michigan gets down, it gets up again.

I hope it does.

Walsworth is VN editor-in-chief

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