Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's heavy walking in other people's shoes sometimes

For the past few nights at work, I've been immersed in the details of a gruesome local crime that I can't seem to shake -- no matter how hard I try.

Even delving into a book for hours after my late shift in an attempt to lose myself in the makebelieve world of vampires and warewolves didn't seem to do it. I still fell asleep injecting myself into the real-life circumstances, wondering how on earth I'd ever get over that kind of loss.

As a parent, I see things differently now. I don't know how you go on when your 19-year-old son gets fatally shot because a gunman happened to select the restaurant your child works in to unleash his fury.

I have trouble simply forming the words, but I can't fathom only 18 more years with Allison. Or even outliving her for that matter. The thoughts alone spur an instant ache in the back of my throat.

Then I think of Jerry.

After leaving the restaurant, the gunman killed a recent retiree who happened to be outside retrieving his mail. His wife apparently heard the shots, went to their apartment window and saw her husband lying dead on the ground.

The police report says the gunman was looking for a getaway vehicle. I'm guessing he reacted poorly when the retiree couldn't immediately produce car keys.

I know not every couple is fortunate enough to get to spend their retirement years together -- there are so many things that can interrupt a marriage, even divorce -- but I can't imagine having that taken away by a third party after making it so far.

My thoughts were only with the victims for the first 24 hours. And then, while looking for photos of the gunman, I logged onto his MySpace page.

I'm not exactly sure why, but it jolted me.

He's a husband and a father too. He got married on a beach -- there were sunny, smiling photos to prove it. He and his wife have two beautiful children -- one boy, one girl. They took family vacations together. Posed in front of their Christmas tree. Snuggled on the couch together and snapped self-portraits.

He was also a soldier. And blogged about the rigors of multiple deployments to war zones and the stress disorder he thought it caused.

Despite all that, I can't mentally make the connection from his family photos to his bloodied police mugshot. How can it unravel for one person so fast? And none of it is an excuse for what he did.

What's harder still is understanding the mass shooting epidemic in our country. I've read analysis pieces with expert psychologists and sociologists musing on what type of circumstances create a breeding ground for that type of behavior, but all I see is needless violence. And cowardice for taking out their own personal issues on undeserving others.

As Jerry puts it quite simply, "If you're ready to leave the party, fine. But don't force anyone to come with you who isn't."

The local incident ruined three families in the span of 12 minutes.

All of it makes my heart ache.


Anonymous said...

Reading this makes my heart ache, too. :\

Anonymous said...

it's hard... the economy, war, everything is just horrible, and then this just compounds it all.

So sad. This is just so horrible.

Wendy M. said...

I can't tell you how hard it is for me to shake stories like this either.

All I can say is I understand and it really never makes sense.

It does make you appreciate the loved ones you have and the time you have with them.

Anonymous said...

Oh that's just terrible... My thoughts go to those poor families. /:

And sometimes, it really is hard to have faith in humanity when you hear about something like this occurring. It makes you wonder what people are thinking - don't they have any self-restraint or sympathy for their fellow man?

The only thing that restores my faith in humanity when I hear about things like this is the fact that for every cold-blooded criminal out there, there's a policeman working to catch them, and for every angry, selfish human being, there's another one out there somewhere, working to better the lives of those less fortunate than himself..

Marcy said...

How awful. I can't imagine having to face that kind of story every day.

It's not an excuse in any way, but I think this helps show how important our treatment of war veterans is. I think there are so many more out there suffering from PTSD and other disorders, that are ignored. I don't see how someone can spend time in a war, seeing death and destruction as an everyday occurrence all around them, then return to "normal life" and not feel TOTALLY FUCKING NUTS. As a nation we HAVE to address this, s this kind of problem is not going to go away unless we find a way to prevent and treat the sorts of mental/emotional disorders that cause these sorts of tragedies.

Erica said...

I agree with Marcy. While the reason for this man's actions will not change how devastated all of these families are at the loss of a loved one, it does make a dramatic case for providing better care for soldiers returning with PTSD. I recently watched a documentary that followed several soldiers around a town in a major army base in Texas. It interviewed them before they left for their tour and then several years later when they had returned. It was mentioned at one point that more soldiers had died in that town from drunk driving accidents upon returning than had actually died in the war (from that specific military town). These people experience the horrors of humanity and something snaps. There were a few soldiers interviewed that said they would look down to find themselves driving over 100 mph on the highway and they hardly knew what they were doing. Another young man had a flash back on the highway from when a bomb had exploded and caught his convoy on fire. He swerved to the side of the highway and ran out along the side because he was convinced he was on fire.

My anthropology professor pointed out that if you went up and talked to homeless people you would be amazed at how many of them are Vietnam Vets. It is so important that these soldiers receive all the care they deserve so that tragedies such as this stop. For the future of the soldiers and the future of the country.

Okay, I'm off my soap box. My thoughts and prayers are with these families.

Ray said...

Crazy to realize that "normal" people who "seem" to have it all put together, can crack just as easily as they were once whole. It's insane really (no pun intended).

Maria said...

I'm reading a book called 'Crazy' by Peter Early, it's made me look at people who do things like this in a totally different light. It of course only explains those who "snap" because of mental illness but it has opened my eyes in many ways. It doesn't excuse the action, it just helps explain part of it...of course I dont' know what my opinion would be had I been a victim- it's just food for thought.

aj said...



heartache for sure...

the_plainsman said...

I waited a day to comment here, Kelly, as was in a funk as a long time associate and friend died suddenly this week (undetected brain aneurysm burst).

Every time the economy tightens up, pressures build in unimaginable ways to many. If your newspaper morgue or microfilm goes back that far, take a look at the violence during the "big" 1930's Depression. Desperate people do desperate things - it's no secret. And to those on the edge already, they are simply at the breakig point and do not respond rationally, otherwise Jerry's simply stated position would be true, about them leaving the party alone. (Not that that would make me totally happy, but at least they'd not take others with them.)

And knee-jerk politicians will again be exploiting the recent wave of deaths as a call for more gun control, when the problem is much, much deeper, ranging from rampant under and unemployment and simply mental health and health care. But those issues are to hard to address, no cheap quick fix to make us "feel safer." So let's "control guns." Does making us take our shoes off before boarding airplanes reall make us safer, or create the illusion of being safer? Creating illusions is always more expedient that solving the problems. Rule one of politics

The bigeer issues such as the wholesale shipping of jobs in the 1980's and since, overseas instead of rebuilding our own industries bears part of the blame. NAFTA made bid short term profits for corporations, happy envirommentalists who got rid of all those nasty smokey factories and humanitarians who were were "bringing-up" workers in the "third world." All at the longer term expense of our own forgotten fellow Americans. Too many at the breaking point. Add in social issues of an immigrant who does not fit in, as in Binghamton, and things explode. No mystery there. Only a failure to understand.

As that denizen of the newpapers a generation ago, Pogo Possum said, "We have met the enemy, and the he is us."

The result as you aptly put it, heartache. The answer? Don't have many, except to live every day to its fullest. You and Jerry are sooo lucky, as so far your crazy split shift life allows you to raise Alli as your own. And though in sleepless haze sometimes, I know, as your writings evidence it, that you blink twice, through tears of joy.

(Heck, sorry for the Op-Ed piece, it just flowed out of my fingertips, I swear!)

Bitchy Mom said...

I'm a bad mother... I didn't decorate Easter eggs with my daughter!!!

And we didn't go on an Easter egg hunt!!!

And we didn't even go to church!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Instead, we stayed home all day and did the taxes...

Bitchy Mom said...

Oh I forgot to mention how absolutely ADORABLE Allie is and I think I want to steal her!!!!

Sena would LOVE playing with her soooo much.

Next time you come to NH *cough* come visit me!!!!!