Hana St. Juliana. I didn’t know her. I was drawn to her lyrically poetic name. And of what ethnicity? It was a saint’s name. She’s with the sainted now.
Hana St. Juliana was one of the four students killed at Oxford High School in Michigan this week.
America is so diverse these days that whenever there’s a shooting at a school or workplace, or whenever there’s any mass violence event, I always hold my breath to see if there were any Asian Americans involved.
All life is sacred, of course, no matter what ethnicity.
But being a chronicler/commentator of all things AAPI, I pay close attention specifically for “Asianness.”
I had even checked the demographics of Oxford, Michigan. About 90 percent white, according to web sources. The odds were good there likely would be no AAPIs in the story.
But then I saw St. Juliana’s picture. Definitely, something in her look.
And then I saw a Detroit TV station’s report, where the local anchor pronounced her name “Hannah,” only to be quickly corrected.
“It’s Hana,” the field reporter said.
As in the drive to Hana, that legendary destination on the other side of the island in Maui, Hawaii.
The picture and the name was enough for me to confirm the presence of “Asianness.”
When it comes to these national traumatic events, it’s almost impossible not to pay attention. And given the number of instances of anti-Asian violence has risen to more than 10,000, as documented by #StopAAPIHate, can you afford not to?
And yet I have a friend who believes Asian Americans don’t pay attention to these violent stories in the news unless it involves someone like them.
Well, this one for me hit home.
As I looked at Hana’s picture, I realized I was drawn to it because she looked like my three kids. That combination of mixed Asian; Asian American Filipino and white.
That usually doesn’t happen in these kind of news stories.
Every time I saw a news update showing Hana as one of the victims, the picture drew em in closer because it looked like one of my daughters. They’re all adults now. But I remember when I was their coach for the Under-15 year old girls.
What can I say. Hana St. Juliana brought out the parent in me. Each time the Michigan story came up, I felt oddly compelled to text at least one of my daughters.
“U Ok? Luv Dad.”
It’s just a reaction to be in touch. Just like the kids who felt compelled to text when they were trapped in a classroom at Oxford High. In between moments of genuine fear and terror, a tearful text, an expression of love. To mom. Or dad. Or grandma.
Hana wasn’t so lucky. She was in the hallway, as 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, armed with his dad’s 9 mm handgun, opened fire.
It was his father’s gun, bought four days before the shooting. What was Ethan Crumbley doing with his dad’s gun at school? That’s bad parenting.
That’s why the Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald has said she’s weighing charging the parents. Ethan already is charged as an adult with one count of terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm.
More charges could be added, as McDonald may turn this tragedy into a family affair. That would be rare, but in fact as I write, the parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, have just been charged with involuntary manslaughter, one count for each student killed by a gun that day at Oxford High.
As I continue to look at Hana’s picture as a parent, all I can think of is what should be obvious.
Good parenting would have been the best gun control.
Understandably, Hana’s parents have been too distraught to talk to any media and deferred to their close friends and neighbors, Jennifer and Shannon Curtis, who had treated Hana like a member of their family.
“She was just a kind kid, would never say anything bad about anybody or act out,” said Shannon Curtis to CBS Local in Detroit. “She cared about people.”
“She was a beautiful young lady, inside and out,” Curtis’ wife, Jennifer, added. “She had a big bright smile and I can’t believe she’s not here.”
There is nothing bad you can say about a 14-year-old who was a star volleyball player, and about to debut on the basketball team, and had really just begun to live. Nothing.
And now, we’re left with an image. And the name.
SOME PAST COLUMNS ON GUN VIOLENCE
National Asian American surveys in the last election have shown 76 percent of Asian Americans consider gun control “extremely important” to “very important.” So Asian Americans are aware of the issue.
Certainly, judging from my AALDEF columns, we have experienced significant gun violence over the past few years. Most notably, the six Korean American women in Atlanta this past March.
In April, Sikhs were murdered at a workplace in Indianapolis.
In May, there were Asian American deaths at a San Jose transit yard.
In 2019, I was driving through America and encountered this mass shooting in Dayton.
In 2018, Peter Wang was gunned down at the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
In 2018, I was in Orlando when they honored the dead from the Pulse Nightclub 2016 shooting.
And then there are the times when an Asian American was the perp.
Each instance is a shared trauma. And I was just recalling the ones that came to mind.
It just shows you how Asian Americans are not immune from the gun violence that has only grown worse in America.
Gun violence is a part of our narrative too.
It’s so bad, we think it’s normal.
I’ll be talking about all of this on my Emil Amok’s Takeout live at 2 pm Pacific today on YouTube and on Facebook Watch. Catch it recorded on www.amok.com.