It had absolutely nothing to do with me. Even talking about it the way I want to talk about it, I feel like I’m trying to put myself in a story that isn’t mine. The characters in the drama interact and their scene plays out while I bang on the glass that keeps me out, trying to be part of it.
The day before, I drove through campus on my way home. I drove through when the building that would become a major crime scene a day later let its students out of class. They crossed the street in a seemingly unending line in front of my car. I just wanted to get home!
I was annoyed at them for no good reason, really. I was annoyed at them, not knowing that a day later one of them would be dead and all of them changed.
I can’t help but wonder if Paul Lee walked by my car that day, the last time he’d leave class. I search the pictures of the other injured students. I study the face of Jon Meis, who brought the gunman down and saved the lives of his friends, and try to jog my memory into recalling him.
It has nothing to do with me.
The night it happened, I stared blankly out my window and wondered what the students at SPU were doing at that moment. What do you do? Were they walking around like zombies, feeling, numb, feeling drained like I was? Were they drinking? Probably not. SPU doesn’t strike me as much of a party school. Were they gathered in small groups, praying, trying to talk themselves through it?
It has nothing to do with me. I would never had been in that building. But it’s a corner of my world. I drive by that building when I drive home from work. I run behind that building on my lunchtime runs along the ship canal. It’s so much a part of my world and a terrible thing happened in my world.
I thought about the bomb threat we had my senior year of high school, a year after Columbine. I thought of us joking about how we had to stay inside, away from windows. Our nervous laughter poking fun at the idea that THAT could happen to us because how can you function knowing that THAT can happen to you?
I started building a wall that day. I added another brick every time a random shooting happened. Another layer of mortar every time I wanted to curl up in a dark corner and not face the world.
I wonder how people do it in parts of the world where bombs and public attacks are a part of life.
Then, I realize this is one of those parts of the world.
My bricks and my mortar are in a pile of rubble at my feet. I can’t help feeling despair as I stare at them. I can build them as strong as I can. It’ll be fine for a while.
Until a huff and a puff and I’ll stare at the pile of rubble again.