It probably says a whole lot about me, but the first time I was ever moved to the point of blogging, was after a local tragedy took the lives of three teenage girls who went to the same high school that I had attended. It was April of 1998 and I was 20, but high school felt like such an ancient memory, but it really shook me up. I was working at Kinko’s back then, and the younger sister of one of the victims had come up to make necklaces with laminated photos of her sister.
Then the second post came on April 21, 1999. The day after the Columbine massacre. Although AOL took the site down just a few years ago, there’s still an old guestbook somewhere, and on that guestbook there’s a nice “thank you” note from one of the survivors. This isn’t to toot my own horn, but that’s honestly one of my proudest accomplishments. This was before Facebook and Twitter, before I had ever heard of Search Engine Optimization. I have no idea how the kid found my post, but being able to write something that connected with him did more to humble me while also giving my fragile ago a boost, then any moment in my life up to that point.
In both situations, I was looking for ways to connect with the tragedies. It wasn’t hard to do, and I imagine it’s something most of us do. The night after a gunman murdered 12 people, while they sat and watched the latest Dark Knight movie, I was sitting in an AMC theatre with my friends, watching the same movie. It was impossible to not imagine that exit door opening up, and evil walking in.
The morning of the shooting in Tucson, my wife woke me from a nap, scared to death because she knew my parents had previously volunteered for Gabby Giffords, and the scene on the television looked eerily like the shopping center around the corner from their house.
When a psychopath went into an elementary school in Sandy Brook and ensured that 20 children would never again have dinner with their families, I remembered riding my bike to a baseball card store in Sandy Hook. And then saw on Facebook that old friends, who were now parents, had children in the school.
Each time, I found a way to make it personal. Not that it isn’t already too personal, when young innocent lives are ended for no reason at all, while they’re in what should be the safest of locations. It’s personal for all of us, and we all find our own ways of connecting on a deeper level.
Then yesterday afternoon, at the Jewish Community Center I frequently attended after I first moved to Kansas, evil arrived again. Then made a stop at a retirement named Village Shalom, and as of now there are three dead and one 14 year old boy in a local hospital. One of the dead went to the first high school I attended in Kansas, the same school that Amanda and Alana went to. When I was 14, and attended Blue Valley High, I was often at the J on the weekends. The (sad) truth is, in a lot of ways, I’ve been 14 for the last 24 years.
It’s far too easy to find a way to relate to the victims this time. It’s far too sad to realize that this is going to keep happening. Knowing that this happened at a place, where two of my very favorite people on this earth, go almost every day after school is far too close to home. But every time life is taken, it should be this personal. Not just when the victims look like me, or were in a “safe” neighborhood. It’s just as tragic when it’s in Chicago, and the neighborhood is far from safe. It’s just as tragic when the 14 year old lives in Iraq.
Allowing them to all to be personal, would suffocate us all, but every murder is just as tragic and should be just as personal.