That time when the news is too distressing to discuss. That time when another mass shooting is not talked about, because it has happened so often that we understand that it is better to go about our day as if nothing has happened than to trivialize the tragedy with our worn-out expressions of grief.
Silence, not chatter, feels right after yet another one of the horrific shootings that have become our new norm.
I was gardening Sunday morning when I overheard my neighbor say to her roommate, “Did you hear about what happened in Orlando? 50 dead.’ ”
And then they drove away to wherever they were headed on that beautiful, windy Sunday last weekend.
I continued to garden for another 20 minutes, thinking to myself that everything that day, so far, was good: All family units were accounted for and relatively happy. There were no fires to put out, so to speak; no deadlines to meet; no looming decisions, and no bad news to cope with.
“Life is good,” as my friend and neighbor Nancy says when her family members are all in their places with bright, shiny faces. She knows that the expression is a cliché and that the clothing company of the same name is a brand giant, but she says it anyway, because when life is good, it’s good to say it.
Because one never knows.
I hoped that I had misheard my new neighbor. Perhaps she was sharing old news. Perhaps this had already happened and I had already read about this tragic event and therefore had already mourned. Perhaps, I thought, obviously grasping at straws, she meant that there were 50 people being held hostage, not dead – as if 50 people being held hostage were something to be grateful for.
I planted the last marigold and then went inside to face my computer.
“Orlando Gunman Attacks Gay Nightclub, Leaving 50 Dead.”
It happened. It’s done. Past tense. Fifty people were dead, and dozens of others were wounded. (The death toll was revised to 49 Monday to exclude the gunman.)
That club-goers, club employees, police, first responders and ER doctors and nurses all helped save lives during and after the shooting is the good news.
I’m not sure if it’s a mother-bear thing, but my first impulse was to be with my daughter. My daughter, who is home from her first year of college, is usually the first one in our house to report the latest news. The phone attached to her right hand alerts her.
When I asked her if I could walk with her to a class she was taking down the street, she looked at me funny. She hadn’t heard yet, and I was grateful.
Remember when our children couldn’t read and we could pick and choose what we wanted them to know?
On the walk, we talked about nothing, but it felt good to be close to her and to know that she was safe.
When I returned, I walked directly to my husband, who was gardening at the front of the house. He took one look at my face and asked, “What happened?”
I told him. We kept gardening. Silence, at least for that moment, felt right.
It took me a full day to decide what action I would take this time regarding this shooting. My strategy, so far, has been to call my elected officials and say whatever comes out of my mouth. I’ve tried in the past to organize my thoughts, but as soon as I start to speak, I start to cry.
This time I decided to write to my U.S. senators. So, on Monday morning, I sat down at my computer and I wrote a letter to my senators, two of 100 people in the United States who can do something about this mess.
“Go directly to the source,” my mother the reporter always said.
Originally written for Port City Post, Portland Press Herald. June 18, 2016