Saturday, December 15, 2012

Closer and Closer to home

I remember when Columbine happened in 1999. Not somewhere I knew personally, but watching video at the time, I thought, "this reminds me of where I lived in West Bloomfield, Michigan." I could be off on one statistic or another, but it was a middle-class suburban America that I was well familiar. My Father said to me that night "I am so glad to not be raising children now." Mind you, this came before all his grandchildren where his reflection might have been all the greater. While uncomfortably seemingly similar, it was somewhere else. I had been to Colorado only once in my life at that point and never Littleton.

The recent shooting at Clackamas made me reflect. I've been to Portland many times, but Clackamas? It's a name that kind of sticks with you. I thought for a minute... Didn't I work out at a 24 Hour Fitness there? In fact, I think I went to that mall that same day. After a little checking online, there is in fact a 24 hour Fitness in Clackamas right by the mall and seeing further pictures of the shopping center, while not particularly unique to many a shopping center across America, I know I was there once, if not a couple of times 5 or 6 years ago. I had friends that lived in the area at the time.

Then, there was the senseless, inexplicable shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. That was sounding way too familiar. I never lived in Connecticut, but my brother did and graduated from Western Connecticut University in Danbury, just a couple of towns over. He lived for a while in Bethel, which is adjacent Newtown. I have a friend who lives now in neighboring Southbury, and I used to visit her when we were teens and she was growing up in Waterbury, also just a few towns over. I had other friends in Nagatuck and Middlebury; all in the same region of the small state. Sandy Hook stood out to me because I remember commenting about it then, as there is a State beach with the only nude beach in New Jersey called Sandy Hook.

My step Mother, sister and brother, spent many years in nearby Ridgefield, also in the same area. They too lived there for the same reasons many parents spoke of post this incident; a different world away from the intensity of New York City, albeit commutable. Great schools, bucolic and calm. I didn't know them then, so I only know limited stories of their time there. But, yet another registration of this was really apart of "my world" in more ways than one.

My Father and step Mother lived in Guilford, CT at the same time my brother was at West Conn. It is to the East of New Haven, down by the coast and a bit of a drive. Remind you, small state. The biggest part of the drive was the twisting and winding 2 lane roads to avoid the congested, limited freeways. Perhaps it was through visiting my brother with them I passed through Sandy Hook.

I am waiting to talk to my brother. But, I've been there. More significantly, I really know a community like Newtown. This is surreal to most anyone, but has totally blown away why so many of those families live with a longer commute, deal with the greater difficulty with often greater snow and more hills, and often long drives just to good malls.

As I was about to distance myself from news coverage for the evening, I learned of a shooting at Excalibur Casino Hotel in Las Vegas. We have an unofficial "adopted" son that is a student at UNLV. He works further down the strip at another casino.

There has been a shooting at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Nobody injured, but over 40 rounds shot off and must have been terrifying. I live in Southern CA. I have shopped there with frequency. A friend of ours happened to be working there while it happened.

It certainly seems like we need to logically rethink much in America. Freedom begins with safety and security. The answer isn't to arm every school teacher, let alone retail worker, but to make their environments more safe. We also don't want to create a police state that makes us all feel burdened and discouraged at our every move. There is and we must find some middle ground.

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