Our hometown

This time it’s personal.

The dateline isn’t San Bernardino, Colorado City, Charleston, Newtown, Roseburg, or any of the other well-known places where shots were fired and innocent people were slaughtered. I heard those stories, and too many others to mention, in sadness and anger but with no sense of connection. All of those events were remote, unknown.

But this time it’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, my hometown.

I read the details in shock on Sunday morning. I realized that I’ve driven on some of the streets where it happened, on the western and southern edges of the city. I felt heartsick but was still pretty sure I couldn’t have known any of the dead. After all, I left for college a long time ago, and haven’t been back home since my mother passed away in 2002. What were the odds?

Then the police released some of the names.

I stared at the screen. A name leaped out. A face flashed into my mind.

The age looked about right, but maybe, maybe somehow, it might be someone else with the same name. Then I saw the picture. It was her.

We knew each other briefly before I went off to school and we lost touch. I hadn’t seen her since at least 1973 or 1974. But I remember her smile, her laugh, and her sweet spirit. Looking at her Facebook page, not yet a memorial site, it looks as if she kept that spirit all her life. She also liked B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as I do. I wish I’d known all this before.

I don’t expect this incident or my few words to change anyone’s mind about guns. I hope with all my heart that we never have to see another story like the one I read today.

But remember this: Next time, the name on the list of victims could be someone you know.

It could even be your name.

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