Just when I thought the faded scars had finally receded, a broken coward came along and cut me again. The heinous hound shotgunned his way into in a small newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland and ended the lives of Gerald Fischman (61), Robert Hiaasen (59), John McNamara (56), Rebecca Smith (34), and Wendi Winters (65).
Years ago I wrote for that newspaper. Sold ads and delivered papers right off the press too. When you work for a small newspaper you learn to do just about everything and I am grateful for experiencing and learning each step of the process. I cherish those memories as well as those of the people I worked with.
All five victims of yesterday’s victims came aboard after I left so although we share common friends I do not know their families. What we share is the fraternal bond of community service that grow from being positive forces in the lives of those we served.
Mr. Fischman was the paper’s editor, which means his voice owned the editorial page. Mr. Hiassen had celebrated his 33rdwedding anniversary last week and died on his wife Maria’s 58thbirthday. Mr. McNamara was a kindred soul—a sportswriter who covered local teams, just as I had done—while Ms. Smith sold ads, which I also did. Ms. Winters was a happy neighborhood gadabout, a prolific writer who spread the word about what was going on around town.
In the decades since I worked there, The Capital newspaper has never been more ten feet from my conscience. I have a “velox” framed reprint hanging in my writing room where the editor (Ed Casey, at the time) defended me after I ticked off a few thousand folks by opining in print that sportsmanship supersedes results. I caught a raft of grief over that and a large advertiser withheld its significant spend while asking for my head on a proverbial platter. Instead Ed and the paper chose to defend me. I learned a lot from causing, weathering, and eventually flourishing in the receding propwash of that mess, but its framed reminder is always in view.
There is a wistful helplessness that comes with processing carnage and sorrow. Unfortunately for me, I have practice. On November 2, 1999 seven co-workers were gunned down in Honolulu at my company’s office. At the time I shrugged off the bloodshed, thinking that I was strong enough that it wouldn’t bother me.
Time proved such arrogant braggadocio remarkable wrong. I was hopeless, clueless, and permanently scarred in ways that reshaped the life I chose to live as well as the way I live it. Lost that day were Jason Balatico (33), Ford Kanehira (41), Ronald Kataoka (50), Ronald Kawamae (54),Melvin Lee (58),Peter Mark (46),and John Sakamoto (36). They too remain close by.
I have included the ages of all these victims to point out that these days, in our modern, short-tempered world of guns over debate, broken people steal years from the exciting futures of hardworking folks who toil to provide for their families and live with a decency that does more good than harm.
So where does this latest “shooting of the week” leave us? Perhaps with the words of my late friend George Simmons, who was killed the morning of 9/11. George and I had spoken the afternoon before about a life skills book I was finishing to help people avoid becoming so broken that they would lash out the way the gunman had in Hawaii.
“If something happens (to me),” he said, “push on.”
The pen is stronger than the pain, as is the power of goodness. We hug that truth and push on. Push on, my friends, push on.
Doug Wright saysJuly 12, 2018 at 3:25 pm
Wow! Thanks for sharing.