Back in the late 60’s and very early 70’s, my generation protested the Vietnam War. Sit-ins, walk outs, marches and rallies, all of it happened over radio and TV. Perhaps it was television that brought it all home to us.
I remember watching the six o’clock news at dinner and war footage would be presented. We’d see soldiers in bloody bandages. Sometimes there would be injured soldiers carried by stretcher with an IV drip inserted. Even more rare were scenes of body bags. After a while those scenes are cut out altogether.
When I turned eighteen in November of my senior year, we were assigned a draft number. Mine was 25, the same as my birth date. That year, the draft went all the way into the 200’s or so. My number 25 meant, ‘Pack your bags, Buddy!’ Fortunately, I ended up 4F for allergies and asthma, so I never had to serve. I had one or two acquaintances move to Canada. Several more died in combat. My brother, Jim, served in the Air Force, did a year’s hitch (as they called it) and fortunately for us, he came home in one piece.
This past Wednesday, the anniversary of the Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting, we observed a remembrance and memorial for the seventeen victims who died due to gun violence. About fifty kids planned it, what they wanted to do and how. Besides banners and wearing Stoneman-Douglas school colors, there was a PowerPoint scroll and every minute of the seventeen minutes we observed, a name, the age and a short bio on each of the victims was read over the PA.
Several things happened. It was reported that, for the most part, there was silence throughout the building. Kids were intent on watching, listening and feeling. Kids and staff members were emotionally invested and moved. There were tears. Of the seventeen kids who read the names, there were some who had to be consoled and reassured by the others waiting in line for their part because more than a few had broken down. And the staff felt it.
There were no chants or protests. Only four kids walked out of the building and they chose to sit on a bench just outside the door and they did so during the one minute of silence at 10:00 a.m.
But it was the comments kids and staff members made after that brought it home for me. Most talked about the ages of the kids: fourteen- and fifteen-year-old kids. The two kids who died shielding others. The three adults who sacrificed themselves in order to save kids.
What made it All The More Real were the pictures of the victims- kids and adults- linked with their names, their ages and the little information we had about them.
And the new reality for the families of those victims, what will make it All The More Real for them will be the empty chair at Thanksgiving and Christmas, the empty chair at breakfast and dinner, the non-celebration of a birthday or anniversary, the empty bed at night. The house and home feeling quieter somehow.
What will make it All The More Real for those families will be that there will be no more “I love you!” and no more embraces. Gone.
Gone before, in some cases- most cases- an opportunity to live out dreams, to experience wonder and experience surprise and joy. Gone.
Our kids chose to give their memorial to the seventeen victims at the end of the day because, in their words, all of us . . . you and I . . . came to school and get to leave at the end of the day, while those seventeen victims came to school and never got to leave, to go back home, to live. All The More Real, isn’t it? Something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!
To My Readers:
I had the opportunity to be interviewed in advance of my new book, Caught in a Web, launching April 26, by Fiona Mcvie from Ireland. She asked some really interesting questions and I enjoyed myself. If you are interested, you can read it at https://wp.me/p3uv2y-7Km
If you are interested in getting a copy of Caught in a Web, in the thriller/suspense genre, it is now available for preorder at http://bit.ly/2GtdsXL . If you purchase your book prior to the publication date of April 26, 2018, you may use the promo code: PREORDER2018 to receive a 10% discount. I hope you check it out.
Here is what it is about:
The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.
Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.
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