Saturday, March 27, 2021

Horror and Heartbreak in My World This Week

One friend had just been been putting on her shoes to head out the door, grocery list in hand. 

Another friend had pulled into the parking lot but hadn't yet left her car.

A third friend was in the store when she heard pop-pop-pop sounds and took off running. She found a tall stack of crates by a back door to hide behind and managed to cover her crouched-down self with a pile of King Soopers aprons. Only later was she escorted out of danger by the SWAT team.

And then there was the friend whose husband went to the store to pick up a few things and never came home. Victim photos show Kevin Mahoney, age 61, walking his daughter down the aisle last year for her beautiful wedding; she is pregnant now with a grandchild he will never hold. When I heard his name read out two days later, as one of the ten slain, I committed the crime in my heart of hoping it was somehow some other person with that same name, as if that other person's life was mine to wish away instead. 

And then there was 51-year-old Teri Leiker. I didn't recognize her by her name, but did by her photo. We all did. She had worked at King Soopers as a bagger for thirty years, serving faithfully on the front lines during a global pandemic, mowed down as she served customers for the last time. Everyone is sharing memories of how Teri always remembered, with a smile, that they wanted paper not plastic, or wanted their bags packed not too heavy. 


I was out walking my dog half a mile away when I got a friend's text about an active shooter at our neighborhood store. Maybe the sirens had already been wailing and I hadn't noticed, lost in my own thoughts. But I heard them then, and saw the helicopters circling overhead, and got another text, this time from my son telling me to go home NOW and stay there. It wasn't much later that my phone began exploding with frantic texts from loved ones across the country: "Are you okay? Please let me know that you're okay."

I was "okay" in the sense they meant, but in another sense none of us here in this neighborhood is okay. Gun violence can't touch the lives of anyone and leave them "okay." 

This store was a community hub. It was almost unheard of to go there without bumping into friends or neighbors and having a chat in the produce section or checkout line. My older son had his first job in the Starbucks there. My two little granddaughters used to love riding in one of the store's shopping carts that had a little plastic car affixed on the front of it: extremely unwieldy to maneuver in crowded aisles, but the joy of the preschool crowd. Rides (price: a penny) on the little horses by the checkout were another huge treat. At least two King Soopers checkers invariably ask after the girls when they aren't with me: "When are you getting your girls? Will they be here for Easter?" 

This store is now surrounded by yellow tape as the crime scene where ten people were murdered this past Monday. 

I created this blog in part to process my experiences and offer myself little life lessons that I can share with the rest of you. This time I have none. Yes, tragedies like this show that life is fragile and precious. Yes, make sure you tell friends and family RIGHT NOW how much you love them. Yes, America has too many guns and too little political will to make sure tragedies like this stop happening. If we didn't do anything after 26 people, including 20 children ages six and seven, were killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary, why would we do anything when another ten more people are killed at a grocery store? Yes, these tragedies feel vastly more real when they happen to you, but now you know that all tragedies happen to some real, actual human beings. Yes, start savoring every moment you spend shopping in your own neighborhood store with groceries packed up by your own cheery bagger. 

I have nothing to add to this list. It's actually a pretty good list, I guess, or as good as any such list can be.
 
Oh, and yes, love is powerful, and beautiful, and a world with love in it is a better world for that reason. Here, two final photos of the outpouring of love for the victims of the King Soopers massacre in 
Boulder, Colorado, on Monday, March 22, 2021, and for their families, their community, and our broken world.







21 comments:

  1. Heartbroken for your community.

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    1. Thank you so much. What happens to one touches all.

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  2. Oh, Claudia, I've been thinking of you daily as the news continues to go over the horror of it all. There are no words for such pain. Just know that my heart aches for you, your friends, your neighbors, and our entire country, lost in its continuing, self-inflicted nightmare.

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    1. Thank you, dear Sandy. Would that this self-inflicted nightmare could end.

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  3. The only thing I can say is my heart grieves for your community, and I love you.

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    1. Thank you, dear Hillary. I love you, too.

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  4. The only thing I can say is my heart grieves for your community, and I love you.

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  5. Thank you for sharing all of this. Sending you love and light, but knowing that nothing really helps right now. It must stop. All of this horror.

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    1. All we can do is to do what we can. Love and light are both beautiful things. Thank you.

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  6. oh Claudia, Thank you for your writing. Your ability to express how we feel as our thoughts are closed up, heart pounding, knowing this is not something that we will ever get over is a gift. I am sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thank you, dear Lisa. It was hard for me to write this, but I'm glad I did.

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    1. Oh, friend of my childhood, little did we know all the paths we would travel....

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  8. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this terrible tragedy, Claudia. We have met through the Boulder SCBWI. My heart goes out to everyone in your neighborhood.

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  9. Sending you love, Claudia. Thank you for this remembrance.

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  10. My heart is broken for you all. I wish I could hug your neck.

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