Tender Tears

I did something today I haven’t done in awhile: I cried.  Not the eyes-filling-with-water variety, but full-on drops down the cheek style.  And it wasn’t about me.  But something struck me.  A couple of days ago there was a random high school shooting in Ohio—a lone gunman indiscriminately fired on classmates, killing three of them.  Now, I’m an avid consumer of news.  I hear and read about things like this all the time.  Rarely do they elicit any kind of emotion out of me.  The 24-hour news cycle has definitely desensitized me to violence.  So when I first heard about this, I just thought to myself, that sucks. But today, as there was nothing on TV, I stumbled onto Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, which was covering the story, and I watched.

Anderson was interviewing the mother of one of the dead students.  The student’s name was Daniel Parmertor, but he went by Danny, like me.  He was sixteen-years-old.  360 was showing pictures of Danny while the mother answered Anderson’s questions.  Danny was a good-looking, young dude.  One picture showed him smiling in a dress shirt and slacks.  Another showed him on a vacation yelling towards the sky with his arms spread out.  And another showed him on a raft floating down river, turned back towards the camera with a beaming smile.  That was enough evidence to know Danny was charismatic, well-liked, and full of life.

But the kickers were Anderson’s questions.  It was the follow-up questions to the answers of the standard ones that made me feel a rush of emotion about to boil over.  When the mother stated that Danny had just started a new job—his first job—and had not even received a paycheck yet (as if that’s not sad enough), Anderson asked her what he would have spent his money on.  The mother said he was going to save for his first car and that he wanted an IPhone 4.  She also said that he was going to visit Ohio State next week.  Man, too much to handle!  Talk like that personalized it so much and pulled vivid reminiscences of my own life from the depths of my memory—nostalgic ones, sweet ones. It reached the meridian, surged to the top: I cried—sat there in front of my TV, in the dark, alone, crying.  That’s where my life started.  That’s where the fun begins.  Sixteen-years-old is when the series of firsts begin: the coming-of-age ones that are the highlights of life; the subjects of myriad books and movies; the ones nobody ever forgets: getting your license and first car, thinking about college (or what you’ll do after high school), girls, a sense of your own style, making your own money, the physical abilities of entering the early stages of your prime, and ultimately, the realization of an impending adulthood.  Where I consider my life beginning, at the same point, his ended.  Over.  It was ripped from him.

It made me realize how much I had experienced from the ages of sixteen to twenty-eight— and what he will not.  It all abundantly rushed forward.  Beginning from the same age his life ended, I graduated high school, completed college and grad school, studied awesome subjects, met life-long friends, partied hearty, traveled to new places, had serious girlfriends, witnessed wars and presidential elections, pushed my body to its physical limits, read tons of classic literature and watched hours of classic movies, experienced the advent of wireless internet and the IPhone, watched my parents age beautifully and grandparents pass away, and reached the point of being a grown-ass man, where adults have no choice but to respect my opinion.  Danny’s life was over before he really knew who he was.  He gets to experience none of that.  He gets laid to rest at the age of sixteen.

And for the first time in my life, I didn’t give a damn about the shooter—COULD NOT CARE LESS.  Usually I’m way more concerned about the perpetrator.  My psycho-analytic mind wants to know about his life: What was his motivation? What was he trying to accomplish? What’s his personal story?  Was it predictable? Not this time.  When Anderson Cooper 360 shifted the coverage to the gunman, I turned the channel.  I will never research or care to know this perpetrator’s story.  The victims are way more important; their lives should be celebrated.  Rest in Peace, Danny Parmertor.


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