because i am very much still under the avalanche of proofing pages, and still absorbing the granular stories of the mass horror in highland park, the little town where i grew up (it was the next town over, but it was always way more hip and happening than my sleepy little deerfield where the candy counter in the corner drug store was about the biggest action in town), i am keeping it short here today. i’d wanted to share the cover of my new little book, but that will wait, as i feel no impulse toward turning that page.
i don’t know if i can find words yet for sitting in front of a tv, watching a landscape you’d know with your eyes closed, be rattled with war-grade acoustics, the sound of an assault weapon ringing in the canyon of shops where i bought my first communion dress, where we always went for the buttercream roses on birthday cakes, where Fell Shoes was the place to go for capezio’s, the ballet-like flats i once got in the color of a soft summer sky.
highland park was where my dad died, and where my littlest brother was born. highland park was where we raced when any one of us fell from a roof (two of us did), our bones broken in bits. highland park was where i went every saturday morning, all through high school, in my red-striped jumper that made me “a candystriper” (a volunteer helper of nurses). and highland park hospital’s emergency room was where the trauma teams raced on the fourth to tend to the grievously wounded, seven of whom have died. i’ve walked those halls, sat in those hard plastic chairs, for nearly every trauma in my growing-up family.
i now know that you only hear the finest-grain stories, the ones that might never be washed from the wounds, in the hours and days after the news trucks turn out their lights and lumber away. i know that you hear from your across-the-street neighbor about the someone who died right before her friend’s eyes. i know you hear about the sixth-grade teacher of the shooter, who worked all year to get him some help, as she could see then how troubled he was. i know you hear about the four little kids now sleeping in bed with their mama and papa, too afraid to be alone when the lights go out. and how one of those four is literally shaking, a tremor of fear so deep it hasn’t yet gone away.
i now know that the headlines barely brush up against the whole of the horrors, and the horrors play out in terms so deeply human, so shatteringly broken, you know the pieces will never get put together again.
so how must it feel to live in a place where gunshots ring out all the time, and news trucks never come, and no one even thinks to gather up the stories of the echoes of fear, of brokenness?
and why aren’t we stopping this madness? why are AK-47s, those very numbers tattooed on the face of the shooter, seen as the farthest thing from the mind of the revolutionary farmers and statesmen who set about to author a nation of freedom, a place where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness seemed to be a central proposition?
there is no happiness in the little town where i grew up. and the freedom to walk without fear––it’s the latest extinction in a land swiftly losing its grip.
if you’ve thoughts or something you need to exhale, exhale here. otherwise, know we’re encircled in the silence of shared communion. see you next week.