This is not the column I had planned to post this week. After spending 8 days with my son on a motor tour of Major League ballparks, I had planned to write a light-hearted account of life on the road. All that changed for me, and for so many others, in just a few minutes on Monday morning.
As it happened, I woke up Monday morning in a Virginia hotel and made my way into Washington D.C. to attend the 10 A.M. memorial service for my uncle, Henry Strong. Sunday night had been wildly windy and our intended route through rush hour traffic was blocked by fallen trees and power outages. After a few detours we finally found our way through the unfamiliar streets just in time for the service.
Little did I know, or could have imagined, that across the state, many lives were taking a much more deadly detour. News of the tragedy at Virginia Tech University began to filter out, but due to family obligations and the long trip home, I was unaware of it until I finally finished my journey after 10 P.M. and logged on to my computer.
Like most, I suppose, my first reaction was shock and disbelief. How could anyone be so evil as to coldbloodedly take the lives of 32 innocent people? My feelings turned to sadness as I realized that the victims were mainly college students, the best and brightest of my own children’s generation.
I had originally intended to write my column Tuesday morning, but when I awoke my mood matched the cold and dreary weather of the day. As I learned more details about the crime and the criminal my feelings turned to anger at the all too familiar story of an isolated loner filled with hate. Haven’t we learned anything since the horrible events at Columbine High School just 8 years ago?
As the day wore on, I busied myself with other business, and tried to ignore the nervousness of an impending deadline. I have published this column every Tuesday night for over 17 years. It hasn’t always been easy to make the deadline (9/11 was a Tuesday).
When I made the transition from paper to blog last month I promised myself and my readers that I would keep that deadline– but I really didn’t want to write about this senseless act. By Tuesday night all I wanted to do was go to bed and hope the story would just go away, but I knew it would only grow larger as more details and grief were shared.
Words can not begin to capture the immensity of the crime or the devastation that the family and friends of the victims must feel. The monster who pulled the trigger stole much more than a light-hearted column from me. He stole our peace of mind and our sense of innocence. It will be a long time before we can send our children off to college and not worry in the night, and even more so, in the morning.