Wednesday, June 13, 2007

No Longer a Refuge

“Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities
Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that’s me
…”
Small Town, by John Mellencamp

I’m hearing this song in my head as I still try to process what happened last weekend in the small town where I grew up.

Six people died. Three young women, two infant boys, one man. One toddler is in a hospital with a gunshot wound in her chest. One man escaped, to call 911. As I watched the news I tried to see if I recognized any of the police officers – back in the day I knew a couple young men jsut a few years older than me who joined the force after high school. Then they flashed photos of the victims. One of them has the same last name as - and is the exact image of - a man I attended high school with. I’m sure they’re related.

And now I hear Mellencamp in my head – another small town kid who grew up and went away to the big city. But, where he romanticizes the small town and yearns to return – I didn’t. For me, growing up in a small town was o.k. – my parents had decent factory jobs and while we certainly weren’t well off, I had good food and decent clothing and received a decent public education that adequately prepared me for college, which was affordable with loans and grants. But my daydream, as I lay in my adolescent bedroom listening to radio stations from Chicago, was to leave this place. I left more than 30 years ago to attend college in the big city. I’ve lived in cities and suburbs over the past decades and traveled in Europe. Though I live in a medium sized town now, it’s really a suburb of a big city.

And I've reconnected, tentatively, with my small town roots. The hospital where I’m doing CPE serves several small communities, including the one where the unthinkable happened. People are unable to quite take in what’s happened here. This is supposed to be a refuge, safe, insulated from the big city violence viewed on the TV news. I’m struggling to make sense of it myself. Two young mothers, dead, along with another woman and two babies. There is no way to explain this kind of horror.

Keep the people of this town in your thoughts and prayers (if you pray), please...

“No I cannot forget where it is that I come from…”

For one news story: link

4 comments:

ms. kitty said...

Oh my, I can only imagine how I would feel if something similar happened in the town where I grew up so many years ago. Somehow, small towns seem immune to this kind of thing. I guess not.

These folks are in my heart and prayers.

Sharon said...

I never lived in a small town. Between the ages of 10 and 18, I lived 6 miles away from a town of 500 people, in a small lake community that had a couple of tiny stores where we could buy cigarettes for my dad, and milk at the end of the month when it took too much gas to go all the way into town.

I never it was a safe harbor, though.

Perhaps it was because I lived in Chicago from age 5-10. In 1966, we left with only what we could carry in the station wagon with 7 kids and two parents, the very beginning of what my father called, forever, "the long hot summer" ... the beginning of riots and violence in the neighborhood we had just left, seeking the refuge of rural Northern Wisconsin. I saw my old neighborhood on the TV news, and it was not pretty.

Perhaps it was because -- even in the Northwoods -- my father triple-locked the doors each night, as if no neighborhood, anywhere, would ever be safe.

Perhaps it was because the home I grew up in wasn't safe, either, and the triple locks were as much to keep us in, as they were to keep the rest of the world out.

Families are where the highest concentration of emotion and passion can be found -- both positive and negative. So family and domestic violence has never surprised me ... it has made me heartsick, scared, confused, and appalled ... but it has never surprised me.

How sad.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those concerned. There are no words ....

Lizard Eater said...

Heartbreaking.

Earthbound Spirit said...

Thank you all for "listening." It is helping me gain perspective and begin to figure out what meaning, if any to take from this.

Sharon - thank you for the reminder that families often being the most violent places in our culture. My heart breaks open, remembering what you've shared of your childhood. There are no words, indeed. You are a blessing in my life.

If anyone read the news article I linked to, you know the police are saying the man who died was also the person who killed the women and children. While my gut still roils, I now have a little perspective to wonder what pressure or pain drives a person to this "family annihilation" as the article called it.

Just how bad does life have to get that someone decides the only solution is to end not only his own life, but the life of a woman he claimed to love, and their children?

As a nearby colleague ends his services: "Peace and unrest, friends."