Sometimes gross

I don't want to know.

I first heard about the Virginia Tech shootings at the grocery store. As I watched my purchases file past me, I noticed much chatter around me about guns, a school, and dozens dead.

“What happened?” I asked my checker. She grimaced.

“Some guy shot up a school. A college.” I nodded and looked away. Didn’t want to hear about it.

When I got back in my van, I hesitated a moment. I could listen to the radio…I could hear what this is all about…

I switched on a tape instead. The boys and I have been listening to the 6th Harry Potter book, so I said a quick prayer for mercy and listened to the tape.

I didn’t want to know. I can’t do it anymore.

I can’t shrug off the sadness like I once could. The same week was the anniversary of the Columbine killings, and I was already steeling myself for that. Columbine, you see, isn’t just an iconic moment in American history around here. It’s that school, the one over there, the one I drove past several times a week with baby Tre strapped in his car seat behind me. As the bumper stickers said in the weeks after the shootings, “We Are Columbine.”

And so we remember our dead, and print their pictures in the paper and talk about them on the radio.

Except me, I can’t do it anymore. I haven’t the emotional reserves, so I whisper a prayer for mercy and switch it off.

A few weeks ago I was in the gym, resentfully slogging through my time on the treadmill. Hate the treadmill. The trashy magazine propped in front of me was boring, there was nothing interesting on the many TVs bolted to the ceiling, and did I mention that I hate the treadmill? I sighed, feeling sorry for myself and my remaining 24 minutes, and looked around the gym. Across the room a young woman caught my eye. She was sitting down on a machine across from me, turned toward me, but her eyes focused far away. She raised her shoulders, shook out her arms, and closed her eyes for a moment. She looked so, so tired. Then she raised her hands to grip the handles of the machine and I saw the soft, inner skin of her forearms. They were crisscrossed with light brown remnants of scars, diffuse outlines of the sort of cutting a young woman does alone, in dark bitter pain.

I stumbled on my treadmill, caught the handrails, and steadied myself. My hand reached reflexively for my own inner wrist, rubbed at skin that is clear and whole. I blinked hard and found my footing again and stared at the stupid magazine. Because crying as I jog isn’t going to ever help any girl with scars on her wrists.

I can’t do it anymore. I muttered a prayer for mercy and looked away.

There are just so many emotions already, so many highs and lows in life. Last week I was honored to attend my brother’s wife, Terri’s baby shower. One of the games we played was to rewrite lullabies specifically for Josh and Terri and their baby. When it was my group’s turn, I got up to sing our song with Terri’s mom. It was to “You are my sunshine,” and it was silly and corny and a little embarrassing and didn’t even win us a bottle of lotion (Mom’s group won. They had hand motions with their song). We did our best, belting out our lyrics, and when we got to the chorus and sang, “Here comes your sunshine, your firstborn sunshine,” I was horrified to feel my throat close up with emotion.

Because here he comes.

I could have sat down right there and cried, wept for all the beauty and fear and stunned wonder of Josh and Terri having a baby.

Instead I sang loud and clear as I could, and smiled as I did.

I want to be able to be there, a dork, emotionally fragile and present, for moments like that. So as I read the morning newspaper in the days after the Virginia Tech shootings, I quickly leafed through the coverage. Don’t want to know, don’t need to know, couldn’t possibly understand.

I almost made it, too.

Until they printed all the pictures, row upon row of shining young faces. I blinked and leafed past as fast as I could, but the tears came anyway. I let them fall, but didn’t stop to read.

Lord, have mercy.

I can’t look at it anymore.



I feel the same way. Sometimes, it really sucks to feel as deeply as you do...about everything...


Salome Ellen

(What else is there to say?)


You said this so beautifully, Kira. I too stayed away from television coverage of what happened. But I did look at pictures of the victims and cry.


Totally off topic. Sorry. But, hey, the hubby will be taking a group of college students through Denver. ANy churches there that might let them snag a spot on the floor for a night?


Sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with me because I *don't* feel any strong emotion when I hear news like that. I sort of feel a mild shock, like electricity, and then if I feel anything I feel anger (but frequently not even that). I think my personality type is really, really low on empathy, so that probably has a lot to do with it. :-(

Like Sarah mentioned, 'I *don't* feel any strong emotion...' I think what happened on 9/11 drained us emotionally and in addition, the many American Soldiers killed in Iraq/Afghanistan. All that remains is to feel sorrow and empathy for the families that lost a loved one.


After mourning 9/11 and then hearing one of the answers to the question "Why do they hate Americans" being that we don't see what is going on in the world beyond our borders, I started to pay attention. I purposely listened and learned and had my heart broken time afer time with the tragedies that are occurring. Then I decided, at least for a while, that I can't do it anymore either. I can't hear another horrible story. I can't. Its self preservation and maybe that is selfish but not imposing this moratorium on bad news helps no one. Feeling sick and depressed doesn't make anything better. Seeking out the positives and the celebrations are actually harder to do but I think I learn more from them about what is going on. I won't let myself get sucked into the fame of sorrow. It gives the perpetrators of the shootings the glory they wanted. Comparing every school incident to Columbine gives those shooters exactly what they strived for. Its the lives that were lived that are important. It really doesn't matter if it was one life lost or 35. To each family that lost a child, one was too many. So for a while, at least, I will turn my newspaper to the births and weddings first and do my best to avoid the stories that make me want to hole up in my house with my children forever.

Sorry my comment got so long. I guess I needed to get that off my chest and your post inspired me.

I have to admit that in some very strange and ugly way, the attention that these shootings received has made me very angry. Many many more - three, four times as many - Iraqis are killed each and every day by a war we began - rightfully or wrongfully, it doesn't really seem to matter so much at this point - and we don't even so much as glance that way. I know that the shooting of our children is a particularly deep and terrible atrocity for any people, but there are plenty of Iraqi children among the death toll and I need to believe that their lives should matter as well. I felt that deep, overwhelming sorrow and regret when I looked at each of the faces of those Virginia Tech students, printed in the newspaper, but I have turned away from almost all of the coverage otherwise, because, and I am ashamed to admit this, instead of feeling connected with my country in that sorrow, the response of my country has made me angry. How dare we mourn as if the world has ended for 33 when we have caused and continue to cause, the deaths of so many, many more?


I understand

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