Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eight years to justice

Eight years to justice for a Virginia killer.

Mercifully, justice has taken her course for the so-called DC sniper.

One can never celebrate a death, but I do believe that we should acknowledge when justice is served, when justice's wobbly wheels ultimately reach their final destination.

It is a very somber thing to take a life.

I would grieve for those who are forced to do so by a man's actions .. a man who chose to take other lives, indiscriminately and without mercy.

I also salute those who are strong enough to carry out the sentence. They must strengthen themselves in knowing they do what is right, and knowing that they've been burdened with terrible task.

Eight years ago last month, visiting Washington D.C. I had an afternoon free to explore, so walked the capitol mall. I misjudged time and a map: had to retrace my steps to find the metro stop. Along the way I realized that many times in the big city I walked completely alone, and pleasurably taunted myself with the potential dangers I might face. I wasn't afraid .. after all, I'm bigger than most, and I had my Doc Martens on .. I was confident. Then.

Eventually, well after darkness had fallen and the trip had ceased to be a game and self-taunting was no longer pleasurable, I found my original stop and returned to my hotel. Early the next morning I left the nation's capitol. On the day of my departure the first shots rang out and someone died. For days after the horror continued. And I realized, reading the news stories, that I'd been a perfect target while lost in the capitol. Because a man chose violence I found fear.

But I don't choose fear. I choose justice. I cannot, will not celebrate this death, or any death. But I will reflect somberly that the ultimate punishment seems just.

May God have mercy on our souls.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Broken and battered, we go on.

Just over 30 years ago, a tornado changed the lives of thousands of people in Wichita Falls and the surrounding area.

I was 20, young, brash, and working for the city. I grew up a lot that night, steering a pickup through debris-filled streets in total darkness according to the directions the stranger beside me gave, as we went in quest of a farm with a gravity-fed gasoline tank .. hoping for fuel to run the hospital generator.

We returned to the hospital, gas secured, and I wandered across the street into a little building were people came and went. Thinking it was a gathering place, I stepped in to see who was there.

It was a gathering place: a makeshift morgue. Blanket-wrapped bodies were carefully placed in rows, socks torn for toe tags.

I didn't stay long. The vision still remains.

The next day, an early rising to answer the call of duty. We spent the day in a world we didn't recognize. The wind bit, so infused with insulation that fiberglass blew into our clothes and eyes and hair. We itched, and it didn't matter .. my home was intact, and I had a place to sleep and eat. Thousands more didn't. I had been spared, and I had to find a way to cope with helping to clean up after the disaster.

I muddled through somehow, and am a better person for it. But this post isn't about me.

Tonight, a few hours after horror hit Texas in the form of a sick man who brought death to many, it's time to reflect. My son is a military contractor assigned to that army post. I knew he never went on the main post. I'd been told he was to be off of work today.

But we couldn't reach him. That's inconceivable. We can always reach him. Today we have Google Talk, Text, Twitter, Email, voicemail, and cell phones. He's always available. Always.

Not today. I knew he was fine. My fears tried to tell me differently. A careless commenter on my daughter's Facebook post airing her concerns gave me an outlet to blow up. Sorry, God .. I need forgiveness. Again.

When, after 6pm, we finally got the welcome phone call that my son, and other loved ones in the area, are safe, it was time to breathe again. Time to rejoice.

Time to reflect too. There are thousands of people in and near Fort Hood tonight who will be picking their way through darkness, looking for the fuel they'll need to keep going. The news media's intense scrutiny and inevitable new regulations and restrictions brought about by this tragedy will prick at their skin, their psyches and their spirits.

We must pray, and we must ask God for wisdom to act, to help, and to understand.

God, in the holy name of Jesus our Savior, we ask for your help. Forgive us, show us your way, your will and your mercy. We are broken and spilled out before you.