Dark, windy, the air heavy with accumulated moisture threatening to let loose at any moment, we walked to the West Seattle junction. We stopped at our favorite used bookstore. List in hand, I searched for titles appropriate for my adult ESL learners surrounded by parents reading to young children, negotiating purchases, encouraging reading and setting limits at the same time. I thought of the children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, the twenty seven dead who will not be reading any more books.
We made our way into the local art and frame shop amidst a cluster of caroling teeny-boppers, herded along by a teacher, girl scout leader, maybe Sunday school volunteer pulling a small amplifier like a piece of luggage. Girls on the brink of adolescence, some shy, others stage-ready, all sang their hearts out. And I saw the twenty children who will not be caroling this year. Or ever.
As we walked towards home in the dark drizzle something caught my eye in the light of a streetlamp. A scrap of paper stuck to the sidewalk. Garbage. I kept walking, two, three, four steps, but it pulled me back. Was it the way the light shined on the soaked paper? Was it the color green? Or was it the word Victims?
I went back and peeled the scrap from the wet pavement careful not to destroy it further. It was nothing more than the right lower corner of a small poster. I read:
com / GRVM1
My husband came back and read over my shoulder.
"Can it be?" I asked.
Tom said nothing.
"When? Where? Who organized this?"
We searched the nearby power poles in hopes of finding the rest of the poster, but found nothing. I dropped the scrap into Tom's shopping bag. Another piece of horror. Another reminder. If it was what I thought it was, why didn't I know about it? And did I want to know?
These are the questions one ponders even a quarter of a century after the death of a loved one by a mass murderer. The pain does not go away. We simply learn to live with it. The parents, the siblings, the loved ones of the victims of the Newton massacre will live with this pain for as long as they exist. I cried for their pain and for my own.
"I'll google it," I told Tom. I told myself.
But I didn't. Not when we got home. Instead I made dinner. We watched a movie. I tossed and turned through the night.
The next morning, as Tom packed the van in a rush to reach the West Seattle Farmers' Market to sell Kentucky Bourbon Cakes and holiday cheer, I googled GRVM1. A Facebook link appeared. I clicked on it.
December 8, 2012
Green River Victims Memorial
That's all I read. I scrolled through the long list of comments but read nothing. Whatever it was, wherever it was, whoever had organized it, I had missed it. I turned off my laptop and hurried out to sell holiday cheer. I know I will do more research. I will learn about this event and the organizers behind it. And I will decide if it is something I want to be involved in, for myself and for the memory of my sister. For now I can cope with no more horror.