Contemplation

*While my intent with this blog was to focus on relaxing and not taking life so seriously, events like the Boston bombing require serious contemplation of the evil that men do. I promise I’ll be goofy tomorrow.

For all of us, there are dates that stick in the mind: July 4, 1776. Dec. 7, 1941. For me, it’s the dates of my grandparents’ and my dad’s passing. What ties such dates together often is death, whether it’s the death of a loved one or that of a nation’s innocence.

On April 19, 1995, the day before my grandparents’ 58th anniversary, I was at my job in the editing bay of a local TV station watching satellite feeds when a special report hit air. The rest of that day was spent working feverishly and absorbing the devastation in Oklahoma City, the image of a firefighter carrying the tiny body of Baylee Almon emblazoned in memory forever.

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On the afternoon of March 24, 1998, I was at work at the clerks’ desk in the Democrat-Gazette newsroom when we heard the first word about the school shooting in Jonesboro. As I remember, the name of the school wasn’t reported at first, or perhaps my head was buzzing with fear that my friend Jen’s son was at school at that moment. Since I didn’t know which school these two boys decided to wreak vengeance on, I had no idea for a while if Josh was safe. An email from another friend came at the same time as a press conference on the attack and I learned Josh was indeed safe. I could breathe again.

Then the names and photos of the victims were released, and I realized, as the photos filled the screen, that I knew one of the dead.

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Shannon Wright, 32 at her death, was the only teacher who died in the attack, along with four 11- and 12-year-old students; she died shielding a young student from gunfire.

I don’t remember a lot about Shannon now, unfortunately. I always did (and probably always will) think of that mop of hair first, which made it a little easier to spot her in group photos in the ASU yearbook (such as the square-dance club, of which she and a mutual friend were members).

Shannon was my lab partner in biology lab, which I came out of with a high A. Say it was studying and scientific knowledge … or just say it was because of Shannon’s influence. Nearly 10 years later, she was touching my life again. And now, every time there’s another school shooting like that at Sandy Hook, my thoughts always go first to Shannon.

A few short years later, it was a quiet Tuesday morning in September when I noticed the wire alert on my computer at the clerks’ desk, then heard a gasp from the other side of the newsroom. One of the Twin Towers was on fire, and the few of us in the newsroom at the time gathered around the TVs, just in time to see the second plane hit, making Sept. 11, 2001, a day no one would ever forget.

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Now it’s April 15, 2013.

What should have been a day of nothing more than worrying about getting tax returns in on time became instead a day of mourning, not just for the families of 8-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell or graduate student Lu Lingzi, but for a nation still in shock over the events last September 11 in Benghazi, Libya.

It was a reminder that life is short, and that plans for a life can change in an instant, just as they have for Jeff Bauman Jr., whose image has become a symbol of the tragedy. One moment he was watching his girlfriend compete in the Boston Marathon, and the next he was being rushed off in a wheelchair, his right lower leg gone and rescuers trying to stanch the bleeding; he would lose his left leg as well.

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It was a reminder of what might have been for me, as I have friends in Boston, and seriously considered (and was offered scholarships to) both Emerson College and Boston University, where Chinese student Lu Lingzi was studying mathematics and statistics.

But more than anything, it was a reminder that we’re human and that grief is natural, as is anger that some people feel a need to harm others to feel alive.

We’re all touched by tragedy. The measure of our humanity is how we react to it.

Bren

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The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.  ~Rabindranath Tagore

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