Over the weekend I was flooded with the same information, misinformation and images as we all were. Many of my friends took an online hiatus for their own sanity. Me, I can’t ignore it. Simply because for me the damage was already done. Long before we knew the name of the shooter, and then the correct name of the young man. Long before the final count of victims was confirmed. Long before I was drawn to disgust at the reposting of an image claiming why “God didn’t protect our children.” Well before any of that happened I was already drawn into it.
My family does some charity work for our own reasons. Often we don’t discuss them. We don’t discuss family members who survived cancer. Heart disease and heart conditions that have affected loved ones and taken others. But those events flavor what we feel we need to do. What drives us. Each time I hear about one of these shootings I get the same feeling.
Yes, this will be the emotional mess that most of these blogs are, but I am following the rules of thumb for many stand up comedians. I can’t afford therapy, so I’m gonna do this. This blog is more for me than any of you. You’re all welcome along on the ride though. Both of you.
If you’ve known me long enough, or read enough of these blogs, you know I don’t have much memory of being in high school. Great stories from high school, but for me it is like retelling the latest Dresden Files book. As real as getting involved in a fight with Queen Mab. Still there are a few very distinct memories that I don’t really discuss. I don’t want friends from back then thinking I’ve put personal weight on any one memory. One of those hit me particularly hard this weekend.
I used to work in a frozen yogurt shop back in the 80’s. In January of 1988 a young man entered the City County Building with a .22 rifle sawed off to conceal in his coat. He shot several people that day, killing two of them. One of those people was the county coroner, a friend of my father’s. My father worked as the County Facilities Manager. I was helping customers when I heard the report of the shooting coming across the radio. I remember this because I asked the customer to wait and made a phone call. Busting in at the worst time possible for everyone involved, but I wasn’t thinking. I reached one of my father’s employees at his office. I asked if he knew where my father was. I seem to remember the answer being along the lines of, “one the first floor swearing a whole lot.”
It was what I needed to hear. My father was okay enough to be really pissed off. The rest was easy to deal with. To this day I’m not sure if my mother called there as well or not. My sister was luckily away at college. I hung up the phone, took a deep breath and went back to making our store’s version of a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard. Because the frozen yogurt totally makes up for all the candy.
Was I stressed? Sure. But I had a job to do. Just like my father had a job to do. But I knew he’d make it home eventually. Some other family wasn’t going to be as lucky. So, I did my job.
In the late 80’s there wasn’t the security that we have now in most of these buildings. Also, this was the Sheriff’s Department we’re talking about. Why would you need security there? This told us we did. And without a department set up for it, the job fell to facilities. Also I learned about something that most people didn’t consider. There’s a mess left behind. There are bullet holes to be filled. Painting to mask the event that took place. People need to do this. Your maintenance people. The janitors. My father and his crew were left with the aftermath.
I remember feeling the stress pouring off of my father when he’d come home. He had a few long days and long nights. The stress got to him. At the same time I remember thinking that at least he was home. Similarly I knew one of his friends wasn’t. To me it didn’t seem fair that he had to deal with the mess left behind as well as answer what they were going to do about security now.
This colors my view of every instance of spree violence I hear. All of it drudges up one of my worst memories ever. One of the few from that 4-5 year period that I wasn’t allowed to forget. So when people (many times friends both online and personal) talk policy and gun control (or the opposite soap box of more guns), I answer them the same. When people react to the White House statement of “now isn’t the time to talk policy” with “well when then?” My answer is the same. When the families who have been hurt by this attack have a chance to grieve. Twenty Six families in Connecticut had people not come home on Friday.
Additionally, I know that once investigators are done, there’s a community that is left to pick up the pieces. One that I wish I had the ability and the resources to help with. Nobody affected directly by this should be left with that job. Nobody.
Help the community heal. We didn’t have to go through their pain. The least we can do is either help or observe silently as they begin their journey. The time to discuss prevention of a similar tragedy can wait. It’s a discussion that has to happen, but not now.