Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sometimes the Real World Intrudes

Less than 5 hours ago, sirens roared down my street. My husband and I were finishing dinner, my stepdaughters had already headed upstairs to do homework. We watched Ernie,our dog, leap up and run to the front door as he always does when he hears sirens. We didn't give it any more thought.

Then, my stepson called from work a few blocks away. "Somebody's running around with a gun!" My husband asked for clarification (he's a skeptic and my stepson has been known to exaggerate). "Well, that's what I heard," he said. My husband told him to be careful, hung up the phone and began to rinse the dishes. It was a normal night. Boring. We were almost to the end of what had seemed like a long week. It was about to get a hell of a lot longer.

We heard more sirens, so I checked on-line. The headlines were startling. "Shots Fired in Downtown Kirkwood." Uh oh. This is Mayberry. This is my home. We flipped on the TV. By now, you've probably heard the news. It's been on MSNBC, CNN, and all the other shows. It's the kind of story I used to hear about, shake my head, and think, when can we get rid of the guns. But, it always seemed so far away.

Not anymore.

This is my town. I know Mayor Swoboda (as I write this, he's in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.) He was at a 2000 election night party at my house, attending with a friend who is on the city council. I supported Connie Karr in her previous campaigns. I was going to vote for her for mayor in April. She died tonight. I had a yard sign for Mike Lynch when he first ran for city council a few years ago. He died too.

Two police officers died. I don't know their names yet, but I'm sure I've run into them, talked to them. Maybe when we had a fire in my driveway. Or at the farmer's market. Or maybe they stopped one of my sons for speeding. And gave a warning rather than a ticket. We're a town of friendly faces. Just last week, when we had 8 inches of snow, a stranger stopped and plowed out my driveway when he saw me outside with the snowshovel.

And a grenade just landed in the heart of my home.

I was at City Hall on Tuesday to vote in the primary. 5 people died there tonight from gunshot wounds.

I really don't know what to say. If you're a person who prays, I'd ask you to lift up my town.

Hug your families and friends. Look around and relish getting another day. Laugh. Breathe.

And maybe think of ways we can reduce violence. And ask yourself if we really need such easy access to guns.


Therese said...

Judy, I saw this story in the morning news and thought of you immediately.

What a terrible thing.

A stark reminder, though, to live, as you say.

Totally agree about gun control.

kristen said...

Oh Judy, I am so sorry. What a terrible, terrible thing. I hadn't heard the news when I read this, but I went directly from your post to the NYT and my heart just sank.

I agree about the guns, the violence, the horrible scenes that are playing out in communities across the country.

My thoughts are with you and your town today.

The Writers' Group said...

I am so sorry for you and your townspeople. Utterly devastating. You're in my thoughts.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Therese, Kristen, and Amy, thanks so much for your thoughts. We're all pretty numb, but this morning the sun is shining, the sky's a clear, crisp blue, and in a little while I'll walk down to City Hall and whisper a little prayer.

Live well.

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

Judy, you're in my thoughts today. I don't know why we feel as if this country is superior to anyone else, in any way - lately, with this, and those horrific shootings of 5 women in a Lane Bryant here in Chicagoland over the weekend, I don't feel safe at all going about my business.

Whatever happened to the gun control movement, anyway? The Brady Bill? I haven't heard anything about it in forever. And it's certainly not being mentioned in all the debates and campaign ads this season. When did we stop thinking about it?

Again, you're in my thoughts and prayers.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Thanks, Melanie. You're asking all the same questions that have been tumbling about in my head since last night. It's nuts.

Julie Layne said...

I saw this story a little while ago and said something to my husband about everyone running around with guns this week. I was, as you said, a little "relieved" to see this wasn't a place I knew anyone, then I saw your post. Not that I know you, exactly, but it certainly brings it closer to home.

Our music guy at church just moved here a month ago from Tinley Park, IL, where their condo was a mile from the Lane Bryant.

I grew up in Denver, not far enough from Columbine.

My son-in-law is from Conyers, Georgia, the site of another school shooting a few years ago.

My ex-husband grew up half a block from Wedgwood Baptist Church in Ft. Worth and walked to church there every week as a kid, and my best friend's husband was the youth minister there years ago.

My cousin lives in Baton Rouge, where today there was another school shooting.

I'm not saying this to draw attention to myself, but simply to say these things are just too close to home. Sheesh. I hate guns, am terrified of them, and am all for gun control, but what do we do about the people who get them legally? Scary question.

I'm so sorry for your loss, and will certainly be lifting prayers for all the families and friends of these folks.

Bev Marshall said...

Oh, Judy, I'm so sorry to hear this was your town and that you knew these victims of this horrible horrible crime. I heard about it this morning, but didn't realize it was where you live until I read your post.

I hope the close community support you all have will be of some comfort to you and to the families of the dead.

I wrote a journal entry on my web site recently about going on when bad things happen, and you're right. We must;we must. I hug the people I love as often as I can. Life is precious and unfortunately, always uncertain.

Carleen Brice said...

Oh Judy, my heart goes out to you and your town. To our country and to the world, actually. Like you've all noted, seems like guns are everywhere!

debra said...

What a tragedy. I am so sorry for you loss. You and your community are in my thoughts and prayers.

Sustenance Scout said...

Judy, when I first heard this news I thought of my sister who moved to St. Louis last year. Turns out her town is about 30 miles from yours. I'm so sorry to hear you're all going through this. There's no sense to be made of it, is there? Hugs from Denver, K.

Larramie said...

Guns are for protection, people argue. *sigh* From what and why?

Oh, Judy, please tell me your front porch will still be a welcoming stop along your town's way...some day.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Julie, the gun stories are always in the news, aren't they? It's frightening to think there's no safe place.

Bev, You're right, all we can do is choose to go on. And hug our loved ones.

Carleen, Debra, and K, Thanks for your thoughts. It all helps.

Larramie, Thank you. And rest assured, my front porch is, as always, a refuge.

Anonymous said...

I live a couple hours away from the shooting and you're right - it's like Mayberry there. Didn't think that would happen, not at all.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Hi Emily, thanks for stopping by--glad to know others think of us as Mayberry, too.

Lisa said...

I'm way late to this post, but I have been thinking of you in this terrible time. Thinking about trouble right in your own town, where you know people who've been hurt or know people who know them brought back the freshness of Columbine to me -- it's hard to believe it's been almost nine years. I've had you all on my mind.