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Monday, July 23, 2012

When Something Like This Happens...

I first became aware of the mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater that left at least a dozen individuals dead and dozens more injured on Friday afternoon, as I was finishing up some work at the law school before heading back to the Metroplex for a family reunion. As is often the case with these sudden, horrific events, I learned more as the day went on. Predictably, some initial reports turned out to be erroneous or misleading, but the tragic facts remained mostly the same.

In a way, I suppose it was fitting that I could spend the weekend with my extended family--some of whom I only see once a year--after learning of such a gruesome tragedy; people react to this kind of news differently. If you weren't among the injured or bereft or those who escaped (physically) unharmed--that is, if you have no personal connection to the shooting--then it's natural to feel helpless; this wasn't something on par with 9/11 or Pearl Harbor (in terms of consequence and the number of casualties), so there's not a sudden need for hordes of volunteers. Humanity compels us to want to do something and feel disappointed/helpless when we realize there's not much we can do but pray and offer our condolences and try to get on with our lives.

I'm reminded of that familiar refrain, "When something like this happens". It may be a prelude to a condolence offered by a friend/neighbor/relative of someone who lost a loved one in the slaughter. It may be how a grief counselor begins his/her effort to console a survivor. Such words were probably spoken at churches, temples, mosques, tabernacles etc. across the country in the past 72 hours. It's just such a common way of beginning a sentence when you know words are powerless to cure the sufferring wrought by such a senseless and devastating act of violence. 

I was blessed to enjoy a weekend in the company of some of the people I love and care about most in the World. As usual, four generations were present in the flesh, and we had several first-timers at the reunion this year: there was Timmy, my youngest 1st cousin, born last September; Samantha, who was born to my second cousin Chad and his wife Krista in January; Jeremy, who just got engaged to my cousin Jenna last weekend, and his brother Ryan; and a small group of locals who knew my grandmother and her siblings growing up. (This was the first time we had held the reunion in Boyd, my maternal grandmother's childhood home. Her parents moved there from Arkansas in the 1920s and lived there until their deaths. She was the fourth of eight children, seven of whom survived infancy. Five of them are still alive today, and four showed up for the reunion.)

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