|Colin Goddard addressing the Million Mom March marchers at EWEB Plaza.|
On a snowy, windy April day in Blacksburg, Virginia, young Americans pursued
a college education and their teachers engaged in providing it to them. Colin was among them, in a French class in Norris Hall at Virginia Tech. Earlier that morning, two people had been shot to death in a dormitory. The shooter was at large. Unfortunately, for most of the campus it was still business as usual. Two hours later, while Colin and his classmates were doing their job as students, the shooter came to Norris Hall, chained the doors, and proceeded to open fire, going room to room and systematically shooting to death as many students and professors as he could. His name was Seung-Hui Cho.
In the next 10 minutes were seen the best and worst of humanity: a murderous killer on a rampage, and professors and students risking their lives to barricade doors and protect each other and help each other escape. The situation ended when the shooter took his own life. In the end, he had killed 32 people plus himself and wounded 17 others.
Colin Goddard was one of those wounded. As explained in the documentary on the shooting that features him, "Living for 32," he was the first one to call 911, was shot four times, and survived the horror. He still has three bullets in him, as well as a titanium rod in his leg. He was 21 at the time.
|Colin talks to attendees after the Bijou showing.|
Cho had been adjudicated mentally ill and a danger to himself and others, but because of Virginia's weak reporting of mental health records to the NICS background check system at the time, he was still able to purchase his handguns and ammo from a gun shop and pass the background check.
After recovering and finishing his degree at Virginia Tech, Colin has since joined the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He is touring the nation, showing the documentary and speaking at venues, mostly universities, Sundance and other film festivals, and now even public high schools.
"Living for 32" is a powerful and thought-provoking documentary about Goddard and his efforts to bring awareness to the issue of gun violence in America. In the film, he examines his change in thought about guns in America as he recovered from his wounds, discusses what it is like to be a survivor, and goes undercover to gun shows to demonstrate how anyone, including felons and the mentally ill, can purchase a gun without even showing ID.
When I heard that Colin was travelling the nation, I immediately sought to bring him to Oregon. You may have noticed I didn't post anything during the month of April. This was because I was using all of my available time scheduling a tour of Oregon for Colin. I'm proud to say that I and a team of other volunteers from Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation and Million Mom March had a slew of venues for Colin to speak at.
|Colin (tallest guy) and other marchers listening to Mayor Kitty Piercy at the Million Mom March.|
In five day's time Colin spoke at ten different appearances and radio interviews. All showings were free to the public.
On May 5, Colin arrived in Eugene and immediately went to a live radio interview with KLCC, an NPR affiliate, and the "Northwest Passage" show with Tripp Summer. Listen to it HERE.
On May 7, Colin met with another small group at Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, an institution known for advocating for peace and non-violence. Then he made his way south again to a small showing at Oregon State University in Corvallis. A reporter from the university newspaper, the Daily Barometer, was there and wrote up an article.
On Mother's Day, Sunday, May 8, came the annual Million Mom March in downtown Eugene. With around 100 marchers watching, Colin spoke to the crowd and to TV and newspaper reporters, along with Mayor Kitty Piercy (who is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns), myself, a boy named Sage from the iMatter group, and a close friend of Officer Kilcullen, who had recently been slain by a mentally ill shooter. A moment of silence was observed for Officer Kilcullen, and then we all marched a couple miles along the Willamette River. All three major TV news programs covered the event (see HERE and HERE) as well as the newspaper, the Register-Guard (HERE).
In all, Colin spoke directly with an estimated 877 people in five days, not counting radio and TV interviews!
And what is the main message of all of this? We need stronger background checks that are better at excluding the mentally ill and those who are criminals, for ALL gun sales, including at gun shows and for private sales, in all states and at all times.
I can't say enough how immensely proud I am of Colin Goddard and the way he has turned his personal trauma into a vehicle for change. He is brave for taking on a difficult subject, and his efforts will almost certainly play a major role in making a new trajectory for our nation.
Keep up the great work, Colin, and I look forward to your next visit to Oregon!
"I think I've actually found a way to turn the negative experience in my life into something positive, something that will hopefully bring change."
-- Colin Goddard, from the KLCC radio interview
(all photos courtesy of Jasmine Rose Penter, photographer and Ceasefire Oregon volunteer)