Work and Tragedy

Josie Leavitt -- June 13th, 2016

The attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on Sunday morning that left 50 people dead and scores more injured made work yesterday a bit of a challenge for me, my staff and my customers. It was a challenge for me because I am a member of the LGBTQ community, and locally we are still reeling from the murder of a transgender man three weeks ago in what is being considered a bias incident. I am also on the Board of the Pride Center, so as news of the horrific attack unfolded, the Pride Center kicked into high gear planning a vigil. Here’s the thing that I forget sometimes: work doesn’t stop when there’s been a tragedy. Nor should it. There is something about bookstores that comforts people during times of crisis.

I was touched by my staff when I got to work a hair late and the store was packed with shoppers. David, who opened, was happy to see me when I walked in and the moment we were alone he checked in to make sure I was okay with what had happened in Orlando. We both wanted to talk about the shooting, but were very mindful not to talk about it when there were kids in the store. There were a lot of hushed conversations yesterday at the register as folks tried to make sense of the killings. I resisted the urge to shush customers who were sharing some of the graphic details with kids in the store. I tried to set the tone for this by not talking about what had happened when the store was full of little ones.

People need to process tragedies and we do that by talking about them. The problem arises when the details are graphic. Kids have a tendency to hear everything, especially when adults think they are speaking in hushed voices. All things considered, I thought everyone did very well discussing what had happened while not terrifying children with the details. I worry about the kids who have gay parents and what new fears they might now have. As a bookstore owner part of my job is to anticipate what customers might need. I have been hard pressed to find good books that help explain a mass killing to a child. Rather than wish for books that I don’t think exist, my approach will be to find books about empathy and healing. But readers, I would love it if you wanted to share some of your go-to books for tragedies.

And I think yesterday can best be summed up by the number of hugs given and received.

One thought on “Work and Tragedy

  1. Debbie Vilardi

    I think Eve Bunting did a brilliant job of handling a tragic and frightening situation in a way that could comfort readers with her picture book Smoky Night. She showed how tragedy can bring people together.

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