Suffer the Children

I, as many others, get from fly fishing an immersion in the natural world that offers peace and renewal. We, if I can generalize, look for retreat from the daily irritations – both large and small – as well as an escape from the increasingly dismal news that threatens our sanity.

But some days fly fishing offers no escape.

Monday, April 15th, 2013 was one such day. I shared in the horror of the images and accounts of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I also felt a sense of admiration and wonder for those brave souls who ran toward, rather than away from, the explosions to assist those hurt.

And of all the images coming from that day and the ones that followed, the one that stays with me is that of eight-year-old Martin Richard; the image shared by a friend of his former teacher: a smiling little boy with the gap between his front teeth holding up a sign that said “No more hurting people. Peace”.

Martin Richard was at the finish line to watch his father finish his race. He had just gotten an ice cream when he was blown up by a bomb made out of a pressure cooker. With him were his sister and his mother. His sister Jane, who loved to dance, lost a leg. His mother Denise suffered traumatic brain injury. Only his brother who was nearby and his father escaped physical injury; but one can only wonder at the depths of the grief and pain they must feel.

The monsters who did this took more than just his life; they took away his chance to kiss a girl (or boy); to fall in love and make love; to chase his dreams; to feel the highs and lows of a long life lived well; and to be a good son, brother, and friend to those who surrounded him.

That little boy haunts me. Perhaps it’s because there’s only one child to mourn.

Not many months ago, we all suffered the loss of 20 children (even younger than Martin) and six adults at the Sandy Hook School in Newton Connecticut.

There were so many lost at one time. It was difficult to keep them straight even with their individual stories and photos. Perhaps their faces have been lost to the majority of us, but their names should be remembered: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, Ana Marquez-Greene, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison Wyatt.

And the six women who died trying to protect them should never be forgotten – the word hero has been too cheapened by overuse to properly honor them: Rachel D’Avino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Leigh Soto.

There are other children who have been lost that will never be memorialized.

The ten Afghan children – along with two women – killed within the last month by a single NATO air strike in Shigal district, Kunar province. The air strike also killed eight members of the Taliban; those children were just “collateral” damage.

The children who go to bed hungry every night.

The children who live in fear of the violence outside, or inside, their doors.

The children who suffer abuse at the hands of those they trust the most.

Many of them suffer in silent shame. I knew one such child for he was my classmate in elementary school. He was beaten for years by his abusive father. We did not learn the truth until after he took his own life when he was in high school. Phil, I remember you.

And there are others we should think about.

The adults who commit mass murder in Boston or the destruction of Afghan children in an airstrike.

The man who brought Phil into this world and abused him.

A human society that cannot find ways to love and take care of all children – for they all are our children – will not survive. The next generation of heroes and terrorists are alive now; they are babies, the first graders of Sandy Hook, and Martin’s age.

What will we teach them? Is it their future to become a monster or a victim?

The choices are ours to make now. At some point it will be theirs.

No more hurting people. Peace.

Death of a Stranger

Yesterday I was at work in corporate cubeville when I heard sirens. That’s not unusual; the building where I work is near both an industrial area and a busy thoroughfare. The police and fire departments always seem to be going somewhere fast.

A few minutes later I took a break and got up to look out the window. Five floors below me in the driveway in front of the the lobby were two city fire trucks; one county emergency truck; one company emergency truck; and two company security vehicles. That’s an infrequent but not uncommon sight for we have a large population of older workers and some do have medical emergencies. I did think the response was larger than I typically see.

But then I looked to the left and noticed two parked city police cars. I knew something tragic had occurred as the police come on scene when there’s been a death.

Word soon spread that there’d been a death two floors below and that staff had been requested to leave the area.

At one point the company emergency truck dropped off a gurney and left; some late arriving workers coming into my area said the emergency truck was parked near the elevator in the parking garage. That seemed to confirm the rumor.

As the morning progressed most of the emergency vehicles left to continue with other calls both grave and minor.

As I was going into the cafeteria some time later there was a group of sober-faced people talking about notification of next of kin, and I understood that a number of people somewhere didn’t yet know that their worlds were about to crash down upon them.

I don’t know the name of the person who died. I’m not sure I’d recognize who it was if I heard it.

I don’t know if it was a man or a woman. I assume that he/she was someone I’d seen at some time in the hallways, elevators, or cafeteria.

I’m not sure if it’s important I know who that person was for you see that nameless/faceless person was a stranger.

We never worked together. We never were in meetings together. We never shared a table in the cafeteria. At this point if it was otherwise I would have known.

But that stranger had hopes and dreams, and hopefully loved and was loved.

That stranger had once been a baby with a life of potential and possibilities.

That stranger had passions and interests.

That stranger had worked for many years – hopefully doing something of value and personal meaning.

And now that stranger is dead.

So why do I care?

I care because someone’s death is a reminder that each day of life should be savored. Of course it’s trite to say it, but it’s an inescapable truth.

Rushing from crisis to crisis; taking no pleasure in the small things; much too soon they will all be gone.

As fly fishers we treasure time on the water. But do we take the time to enjoy the small things: rigging up the rod and line; putting on waders; the slow approach to the water while taking in the day, and the selection of fly for the first cast?

I care because that stranger is every one of us; we are all strangers to others – sometimes even to people with whom we share some part of our lives.

When we’re fishing do we see someone else as an intruder or as someone sharing the love for the same activity and the same special place?

The choices are still ours to make – for as long as we have.

Rest in peace.