Skip to main content

Our dad didn't let evil get the last word

By Kerry Cahill and Keely Vanacker, Special to CNN
updated 10:07 PM EST, Thu December 27, 2012
Michael Grant Cahill, the authors' father, was shot six times during the Fort Hood shooting in 2009.
Michael Grant Cahill, the authors' father, was shot six times during the Fort Hood shooting in 2009.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cahill and Vanacker: Our father was murdered in the Fort Hood shooting in 2009
  • They ask: What are we doing to prevent these tragic shootings?
  • We need training for our teachers and police officers, they say
  • They ask: Gun sales are rising, but is commitment to prevention rising with it?

Editor's note: Kerry Cahill is an advocate, writer and at-risk student educator. Keely Vanacker is a high school counselor and mother of two.

(CNN) -- When our father, Michael Grant Cahill, was murdered in the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting on November 5, 2009, we were barraged with the question, "What can we do?" People wanted to help, get milk, make us casserole and assist relatives with travel. Support was everywhere.

That support remains. In the wake of shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Oak Creek, and too many more places, people are asking again, "What can we do?"

First, we must stop asking "why?" and start asking "why not?" In other words, what are we doing to prevent these tragic shootings?

Opinion: Patterns and warning signs

Keely Vanacker (left) and Kerry Cahill
Keely Vanacker (left) and Kerry Cahill

These events are caused by a perfect storm of issues. These include the proliferation of assault rifles and clips of 30 to 100 rounds, access to mental health support or lack of it, and, most important, falling short in our efforts of prevention. It is a sinking ship, and we must start filling the holes.

Holes made by guns that shoot 45 rounds in 1 minute, like the semi-automatic rifle used in Newtown. Holes inspired by the glorification of the shooters in previous shootings. Their life-size faces on the cover of Time magazine, bought by you, and dominating the Internet sites you browse, while the fallen are left in the photo albums of their families. Holes made by the lack of help and understanding in our country's mental health. Holes made by the fact that the Newtown children are not the only children we have lost to mass shootings. They are the unfortunate 20 who made us realize the water is up to our throats.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



The water is rising. What hole can you fill?

Can you think about prevention rather than reaction by supporting programs in our schools that encourage our children to look out for one another? Can you be honest about what it would take to defend yourself against an assault rifle? Can you pay attention to important legislation and contact your congressman and senators to show support or share your thoughts? Can you stop saying, "Glad it wasn't me" and start saying "What if it was me?"

We cannot continue accepting that "these things happen" and "you will never stop evil." Those statements ensure that more innocents will die.

'Enough': Celebs' PSA against shootings
Cop: Gunman set up to shoot firefighters
LaPierre's response 'irresponsible'

Our father charged a gun outfitted with 30-round extended clips and was shot six times. Dad never let evil get the last word. He never looked at a problem and thought it was hopeless. We must do the same, and we must be honest: sacrificing our pride and admitting that we, as a nation, have a problem.

We need training for our teachers and police officers. Training that doesn't just focus on how to react to shootings but knows the community and makes relationships that lead to safer communities.

Opinion: Freedom Group, a gunmaker ripe for an ethical takeover

Programs such as Rachel's Challenge started after the Columbine shooting by the parents of the first student killed, Rachel Joy Scott. The Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, started after the Oklahoma City Bombing, which trains police officers not just to recognize danger but how to create communities that are more aware. "Random actor" trainings, by Dan Korem, teaching educators how to identify possible mass shooters, focus on at-risk kids and help those students.

Gun sales are rising, but is the support for the families affected by some of those guns and commitment to prevention rising with it?

Here is the question we are haunted by: "What is wrong with us that it takes 20 children dying in one shooting to make us change?" And some of us still won't. We have to address the answers, and we have to have the conversation. Let's start fixing the problem instead of treating the symptoms.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT