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Honoring and remembering Meaghan Burns

  • Community members line the streets of South Deerfield as police escort fallen Navy corpsman Meaghan Burns past the Town Common to Wrisley Funeral Home on Tuesday evening. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Community members line the streets of South Deerfield as police escort fallen Navy corpsman Meaghan Burns past the Town Common to Wrisley Funeral Home on Tuesday evening. Staff Photo/Dan Little

Published: 5/21/2019 10:45:02 AM

We want our children to have long lives that are happy, healthy and productive. And we are saddened when that doesn’t happen.

The pain is amplified when one dies because of a violent act.

That is what happened to Meaghan Burns, a U.S. Navy corpsman who was slain May 4 in yet another incident of senseless gun violence.

Burns, 23, was helping a friend, also a Navy corpsman, when they were both killed in the parking lot of a convenience store in Virginia. Their shooter was found later, dead from a self-inflicted wound.

It is unfathomable the grief her family must feel.

As her father, Matthew Burns graciously shared with a reporter, “I never wanted to know how it felt to lose a child. It’s like having your heart ripped out of your chest.”

We are well aware of the so many acts of violence, usually by guns, that have occurred in our nation, often in public places.

But this time, one of the victims was a member of our community.

Burns’ family lives in South Deerfield. She attended Deerfield Elementary School and was a Frontier High School graduate.

Like her father, she enlisted in the Navy four years ago because she wanted to help people. When she was stationed in Europe, she drove ambulances and worked in emergency rooms.

Her plan was to continue working in the health field by becoming a physician’s assistant, also like her father.

People who knew Burns described her as a warm, caring and fun-loving person.

There was so much promise there.

To their credit, people in our community rallied for the Burns family. On Tuesday, they lined the streets of Deerfield in a patriotic display as police escorted her remains from Bradley International Airport to the funeral home.

Many knew Burns and her family. Many didn’t.

But all wanted to show their support, which says a lot about our community, that people will step up when help is needed.

The next night, a candlelit vigil was held at the Episcopal Church of Satins James and Andrew in Greenfield, an event filled with song and reflection about Burns’ life.

But the vigil was two-fold. It was also an opportunity to focus on gun violence prevention — a request by her family.

The Rev. Douglas Fisher said the issue of gun violence is not a political one. He called it a public health crisis, and certainly, the amount of such incidents is indicative of an unhealthy nation.

On a practical level, what can we do to prevent such violence? Frankly, we have no easy answers given the vast and complicated nature of this problem.

Certainly, we can contact those in power about establishing sensible gun laws concerning the type of weaponry available, plus how it is accessed.

For their part, the Burns family has suggested a way to honor her while addressing gun violence via contributions to Bishops United Against Gun Violence. The address is: Episcopal Church in Connecticut, The Commons, 290 Pratt St., Box 52, Meriden, CT, 06450. Write “Bishops United” in the check’s memo line.

Here is one tangible way to remember the life of Meaghan Burns.

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