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Sunday
Dec162012

The Words in Sharpie Over the Swoosh

Josh The Pilot and I started crying yesterday (again) while watching, of all things, The NFL Today. My childhood hero, big tall Boomer Esiason, was in tears on national television. Esiason perhaps knows whereof he cries.  His son, Gunnar, has cystic fibrosis, and this old quarterback has likely learned long ago to embrace each tick of the clock which his loved ones occupy.  Dan Marino was at such a loss that he made a sort of thumbs-up to the camera to distract from the fact that his eyes were glistening. 

We learned that Giants receiver Victor Cruz, who was the hero of victim Jack Pinto, wrote the child's name and "My Hero" on his shoes.  His parents had mentioned burying him in a Cruz jersey.

I have long since grown weary of "public awareness", which has seemed to become impersonal and corporate in its great public pressure to SHOW YOU CARE, and this small personal gesture was somehow-- right.

It's somehow safe to assume that Cruz, like all of us, just didn't know what to do to help a family now riven with grief, and so he did this thing.  He wrote on his shoes with a Sharpie.  I almost envy him because he was in a position to perform at least this tiny act for the family of a tiny lost child. 

He has a name.  This little one's name is Jack and he idolized Victor Cruz. He wasn't just "one of the dead."  Here was a first grade boy with a life, and the universe is now irreparably different because his has ended.  It is irreparably different 26 times over. 

For what can we do?  We cannot, as in the case of hurricanes, floods, and famines, hurl money at the agonized parents to ease their suffering.  And so in our anger and grief we claw at each other over petty political points just when we should be patting one another on the shoulder.  But it is also an opportunity:  Do we calm ourselves and allot one another perhaps an extra 45 seconds of patience now that the shock has passed, or do we keep clawing?

The breaking news media, the one which I so blessedly upturned an eight-year career plan to leave, has borne down so heavily upon the shooter's prior existence (his name will receive no mention in this small Internet corner) that it at least twice posted pictures of two different men who had done nothing more but have social media accounts in the same name.  And so the evil spreads, rippling out to ensnare those who simply arose that morning to attend a marketing meeting.  We will soon become intimate with every shard of this man's blackened, broken life.  It is better to know that Jack was a Giants fan.

But just as the evil spreads, so do the glimmers of good within.  Once I recovered from the shock of the news I stepped away from it and its sickeningly immediate gun control slapfight, for I knew it would be a bit before we began hearing of the heroism, the everyday acts of everyday people who suddenly found themselves in a position to save lives.  The custodian who ran down the halls yelling that a shooter was on the loose.  The music teacher, Maryrose Kristopik, who locked her students in a closet and put aside her own terror to speak softly to them as the murderer beat at the door and screamed.  And Vicki Soto, who placed herself between the gun and her first-graders and told the killer they were in the gym.  He shot her.

You drink your coffee, you check your messages, your heart sinks when the show you DVRed does not, for some reason, appear on the "Unwatched" list.  You mostly assume there's not a whole lot more to life than this, because for 95% of us, that's 95% of our lives.  We've been through this before.  We'll go through it again.  It'll be normal again soon. 

Do we want it that way? 

Easy routines are easy routines exactly because they are what slip us through each day.  If every morning we are lost in appreciative reflection upon the absolute modern amazement that is the microwave and driven to tears by the soft wonder of fog on the roadway, we'd probably never get the TPS reports done on time.  But perhaps each day could use a sprinkling of that.  It keeps us humble.  It keeps us human.

Today my Facebook feed is full of parents still lingering on the subject.  It is always the parents.  This is not to say that those of us without children are less horrified by the matter.  But when the photographs of those lost begin to circulate and the tiny coffins appear on the news and your child has that same pattern of crooked teeth and is about that height-- well.  It's different.  It's just different, that's all.

There was a police cruiser outside my nephews' elementary school today. At first I felt a flash of revulsion and sadness.  But then, maybe nobody knew what else to do.

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