-W. Somerset Maugham
Several days ago three young Americans and a middle-aged Englishman made a decision that prevented a disaster. They ran head-on into a terrorist wielding several weapons and saved a train full of people from probable death. This near tragedy hit a bit closer to home then many for me, because less than a year ago Arthur and I sat on that same train as we returned to Paris from our overnight excursion to Amsterdam. I thought of all of those people, natives and vacationers, whose lives could have been ended because of one mentally ill man.
Then I remembered that twenty-five years ago this week Sonja Larson, Christina Powell, Christa Hoyt, Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada lost their lives in Gainesville, Florida at the hands of serial killer Danny Rolling. Michael was a sophomore at University of Florida that year, and I still feel the fear in my heart that I felt each day when a new victim was discovered. Of course I wanted him to come home after the second student's body was discovered, but he stubbornly refused. By the time Manny (number five) was found, my assistant Principal found me shaking in the halls between classes, took me to his office, handed me the phone and said, "bring that kid home." I was lucky...I got to hug my son that night, but even though Rolling was caught and executed, five more families entered the horrendous club populated with those who lost victims to violent crimes.
Unfortunately, it is the "Auxillary" club, populated with those of us who are indirectly touched by these crimes, that changed the world. These people, myself included, lost a form of innocence that never can be felt again. After all, if a college campus isn't safe enough to leave our children, or an elementary school, or even a place of worship, then what can we do. We can't be with them 24/7, but how can we let them out of our sight? How can we ever feel safe again? Some parents respond by arming themselves, and some become "helicopter" parents, hovering to the detriment of their children. Some of us simply act like things are the same, but never sleep quite as soundly again.
Of course the bad in the world also helps us to appreciate the good. We can all appreciate our loved ones a bit more when our vulnerabilities are thrown in our face. We can really see the sunsets and really listen to the birds. Children's laughter is so much more joyful, and a good meal is more delicious when we stop taking things for granted. I choose to not let the evil take over when my life is filled with such beauty.
I want to thank those four heroes who made the difference in Paris, because they are helping us to gain back our belief in the good guys winning. I want to thank the police and prosecutor in Gainesville for never giving up until their jobs were successfully completed. In fact, I want to thank all of the police officers who spend their days facing danger so we can feel safe.
Speaking of serial killers and police officers, the book I reviewed today, The Infamous "Florida 5" by David Pietras gives us a bit of insight into the cases surrounding five of the most heinous killers our country has produced. I can't say it was a great book, but I did learn some things about Florida's justice system, specifically death row, that I did not know before this book was recommended to me.
After reading Pietras' book and the newspaper, I decided I needed a smile or two. Who better to deliver that than Tina Fey. I got myself a copy of Bossypants and started reading. Thoughts of serial killers quickly left my mind. She is really someone to admire, and her book is a comfortable and funny read. In fact, I think that I am going to read one humorous book a week in the month of September. We all deserve as many good laughs as we can find, and I promise to share them with you.