I am remembering today, thinking about where I was and what happened on:
July 14, 1966, when Richard Speck killed the 8 young student nurses in Chicago. I was a 14 year old kid in Seattle. I could not believe something so terrible could be done by a human being.
August 1, 1966 Charles Whitman shot 16 people to death and wounded some 31 more at the University of Texas, Austin. Again I was in Seattle just a month after the first insanity that I can clearly recall. Lunatics for the ages.
August 9, 1969 I was barely 17 years old, a junior at Escondido High School in California when Charles Manson instructed Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Linda Kasabian to do "the devil's work"; these weak minded sycophants eager to belong to some sort of familial connection, espousing environmental slogans and anti-establishment values, went out and brutally murdered an 8 and a 1/2 month pregnant actress named Sharon Tate, as well as her house guests and visitors: Steven Parent, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger and Jay Sebring; the next night they killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
It was discovered later that Bobby Beausoleil and Susan Atkins previously had murdered Gary Hinman, a neighbor, and subsequently another member of the group, Steve Grogan murdered Donald Shea, a ranch hand. Ronald Hughes an attorney representing the group was most probably murdered by them as well.
Lynette Fromme, a leader of the group, later tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford.
These events caused me to reconsider all my assumptions regarding my most fundemental beliefs about justice, the death penalty (I had been opposed to it) and being judgmental (I thought you were not supposed to judge people) and what I was capable of doing if confronted by people whose values were so different from my own, that they could take the lives of people I loved.
After this incident, I was no longer innocent or passive. I was not merely appalled but outraged. These people's actions changed me for ever.
November 18, 1978 when Jim Jones led 900 followers to their deaths in Guyana. I was 26 and in the Army at Ft. Greely, Alaska. I thought people would remember this for a 1000 years. I was completely wrong.
July 18, 1984 as James Oliver Huberty murdered 26 people at the San Ysidro, CA, McDonalds. I was in National City, CA about 10 miles from the scene of the carnage. I was angry and outraged. I fantasized about what I would have done to stop the bastard had I just been there that day, if only, if only, etc etc.. I was 32.
August 20, 1986 Patrick Sherrill kills 14 and wounds six others in an Edmond, Oklahoma post office. I was in Montreal, at 34 I now was less surprised by such things.
April 19, 1993 Federal agents stormed David Koresh's "Branch Davidian" compound in Waco, Texas killing 79 people. I was in Vermont, buying a car. The siege had gone on for some 50 days. I was sure it would end peacefully, and yet here was this unspeakable crime that didn't have to happen. I was 41, and I was as angry with the government as I was with the cult followers. More so actually.
March 26, 1997 39 members of Marshall Applewhite's "Heaven's Gate" cult kill themselves in Rancho Sante Fe, California. I had just returned to California, I was in Escondido, about 20 miles from Rancho Sante Fe. I was cynical, I actually remember thinking if you could not be happy in Rancho Sante Fe California there really was no place on Earth for you. I was 45.
April 20, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 13 people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. I was in Las Vegas, age 47. Eric Harris lived in Plattsburgh, where I had lived before coming to Las Vegas. Some of my friend's kids had gone to school with him before he moved to Columbine. I still can't believe this one. Where is God? You think things like that sometimes. I know. Some people think like that all the time. Too much.
September 11, 2001 19 Muslims from "Al Qaeda" commandeered 4 airplanes and then there were--2,749 murdered at the World Trade Center, 189 murdered at the Pentagon, 44 more die on United Airlines Flight 93 as it crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA.. I had just walked in the door to work, in Las Vegas. A coworker was in front of their computer watching the news. She told me a second plane had just hit the other tower. I had no idea what she was talking about. Then I did. I knew the world would change for ever for me and all of us. I was 50.
September 1, 2004 Three years later I was still in Las Vegas, at age 52. Muslim militants accosted the Beslan school in North Ossetia (Russia) resulting in 344 deaths, 186 were children. I watched the cruelty of Muslim Terrorists deliberately killing children. I hated them. I wanted them killed. I vaguely realized some of them felt the same about people like me for similar reasons. I didn't care.
October 3, 2006 Charles Roberts shoots to death 5 young girls in an Amish school and wounds 5 more. Again in Las Vegas, I was 54 and sadder than I can remember. Amish children? Forgiving survivors? I cried.
April 16, 2007 ...and now, I wake up to find that someone named Cho Seung-Hui had some problem or other with life and has killed 32 others at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia. And now I am getting ready for my "Walk Across America" all full of introspection and life changing plans and stuff and nonsense and here this troubled young man destroys hundreds of inter-connected lives. At age 55 I no longer feel the pain as acutely as I did as a young man. I know people are capable of infinite horrors for no real reason. I'm numb myself. I feel great sadness for the victims and families, and some contempt for the instant pundits that have all the instant answers about who should be held accountable for some perceived thing that should have been better done blah blah blah. Their therapy is to find someone to blame. The only thing that should have been done is someone should have killed this young man quickly. I wish the cops or an armed citizen was there at the right time. I have gotten too old and too jaded. I'm so sorry for these people.
There are too many other horrors to remember. School shootings, cult suicides, rampages and violence of war... and always afterwards some in the public want to find someone to blame; the President, an employee of some institution that "should have...blah blah blah.." the NRA, anyone to vent on... in reality, it is just the lack of someone's having coping skills sufficient to deal with their own lot in life, and the will and opportunity to use whatever weapons are available to harm the closest victims at hand. There are always going to be such people. Knowing that is the saddest thing of all.
After Hitler, I used to think, like the Jews have said so often after the Holocaust..."Never Again". We should never let it happen again, the world will not stand for it. Then... there was Stalin and Idi Amin and Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein and Rwanda, Bosnia, Srebrenica and now Darfur....on and on and on and on and on....what a waste.