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Editorial: This time, the pain feels more real

It can happen anywhere. But this time, it was close to home.

The breaking news alerts, posts on social media and video online and TV news of students fleeing scenes of a shooting felt more real.

Many in our community have friends, family members or acquaintances who attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Others are graduates of the school, just a short drive away. And when a man on Tuesday killed two students and injured four others by bursting into a classroom with a legally purchased handgun, it broke through the noise of daily life to catch the attention of members of our community.

But as Salisbury, Rowan County, Charlotte and North Carolina mourn the lost lives, we’ll see that the rest of the nation has not paused with us.

No one deserves to die at the hands of a crazed gunman bent on exacting evil, but America has begun to collectively move on more rapidly each time a mass shooting occurs, forgetting the name of the last town or city where innocent people were slain or injured en masse.

If a man had entered a school elsewhere — in Marshall County, Kentucky or Santa Fe, Texas, for example — and started shooting, would we move on quickly, too, dismissing breaking news alerts on our smartphones as soon as they appeared? Perhaps.

Now, the pain feels more real, as many in our community have direct and indirect ties to UNC Charlotte. And we should all take time to read about the lives of the students who on Tuesday were killed or injured — including 21-year-old Riley Howell, who reportedly tackled the shooter and disarmed him before he lost his life.

But how will we react next time? How long will we pause to mourn the dead? How long will we hope that this time will be the spark that prompts change?

Our new American reality is that many have become immune to the sorrow we once felt when incidents like Tuesday’s shooting occurred because of the frequency with which they now happen and the belief that nothing will ever change.

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