On Monday, March 27, a shooter entered The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee armed with two assault-style firearms and a pistol — six people were killed, including three nine-year-old students.
Immediately following the tragedy, a local bookstore opened its doors to the community, offering a space to come together and share in their grief.
Parnassus Books is an independent bookstore owned by award-winning author Ann Patchett — and it’s located just down the street from the school where the shooting happened.
“Parnassus is here for our community,” Patchett said in a video posted to Twitter. “We’re not here to sell you books, we’re here because we love you and we’re your friends, and we’re a place to come. We want you here, with us.”
Patchett — and her darling shop dog Sparky — went on to welcome anyone who “didn’t know what to do today” to come to the bookstore, hold a dog, and just “be with us.”
Independent bookstores have long-standing reputations for being an integral, vibrant part of local communities. Not only do they greatly benefit local economies, but they also host community-centered events, bring in authors, and just generally provide a better book-shopping experience.
Parnassus is no exception. The bookshop, which calls itself “an independent bookstore for independent people,” has a diverse range of reads for all community members, a calendar full of thoughtful events — and a number of shop dogs always around to provide some cuddles, emotional support, and companionship.
Why is this good news?
When tragic things happen in the news, especially school shootings, it’s easy to turn away from the heartbreak and pain — to ignore the difficult feelings of grief, sadness, and anger until they pass.
But doing that won’t bring an end to school shootings — something the overwhelming majority of people do want to see happen.
And to make it happen, we need to do something that’s more difficult, but incredibly important: we need to pay attention, to look closer. We need to look for the people coming together and helping create the change we desperately need to end the gun violence epidemic in America.
And we need to be those people.
Patchett and Sparky opening the doors of their bookstore to anyone and everyone who needs somewhere to be together in our grief helps us be those people.
So far in 2023, over 9,900 people have died by guns and there have been 130 mass shootings. Guns are now the leading cause of death for children — surpassing cars. Already this year, 59 children (ages 0-11) have been killed by guns, and hundreds more have been injured.
We say it every time there’s a school shooting, and we’ll keep saying it until we don’t have to anymore: It doesn’t have to be this way. In order to be louder than the gun lobby, it’s going to take all of us coming together, believing a better, safer future is possible (it is!), and demanding change.