I live in a rural area just inland from the New England coastline, a place that was settled in the hunt for cod and timber in the 1700s. According to the 2010 census there are 7,700 souls residing in this town, which encompasses 93.8 square miles. It’s not a place that makes my heart sing but I chose to be here to do the right thing.
At first, when I woke up this morning, I wasn’t sure what day it was. My husband told me it was Sunday, granting further respite before Monday’s onslaught. At 4:30A, as we had our morning coffee, we commented on the unmistakeable sound of a helicopter. We live under the flight path to the hospital. I said, specifically, how much I hate to hear it because the sound of those rotor blades is an afterword to tragedy. We heard a flight arrive and leave three times. We naturally assumed that there had been a car accident in the wee hours with multiple injured strangers. It made sense to imagine that the patients’ injuries were more than our little hospital could handle so they were being flown, one at a time, to a trauma hospital not far away.
At about 9 our phone began to ring. We were displeased. It’s Sunday, we should be able to rest. My husband was making fish chowder, while I sorted through business insurance policies, in peace. His cell phone went off too. He capitulated and answered the damn thing. At the same time our landline rang again. I gave up and said, “Hello.” We got the news at the same time, small town tragedy.
There had been a drug related shooting. One young man was shot at point blank range between the eyes with a 12 gauge shotgun, another suffered a life threatening injury, the third and fourth men were shot but not lethally injured.
Two of the young men involved are brothers. Their dad is familiar to us. He appears to be a decent man. One of his boys died. The LifeFlight crew did their best to sustain life and the hospital continued the effort so the family would have time to gather at his bedside.
The surviving brother is the same age as my husband’s oldest son. When he was in middle school he was a welcome visitor in our home. He was a good kid. His parents divorced. After his dad remarried he got a little lost in the shuffle. That child made my heart ache. He used to invite my husband to watch his wrestling matches. My husband went.
As the kids grew older they didn’t hang out as much but they did stay in touch. We discovered that good boy was into serious drugs. We talked with him, not to force a change but to let him know that we cared about him. His dad had given him a job and a company vehicle with all the trust that implies. He did harder drugs. He had a heart attack before he was 25. Now his older brother is dead at less than 30.
The general consensus is that every one of those young men deserved what he got. People have gone so far as to say they wish they’d all been killed. I understand that sentiment, truly I do. In a lot of ways, it would have been a favor to the family and friends remaining. People who haven’t lived the misery of second hand drug addiction can’t imagine the total heartbreak in trying to save a loved one over and over again, only to fail each time. I can’t imagine the parental guilt and recrimination.
I don’t wish they’d all been killed. The shock of the events made me cry. Today, I am very thankful that I was willing to move here to this place that doesn’t make my heart sing. My husband would know guilt and recrimination if something as tragically devastating were to befall his kids too. Luckily, he won’t ever have to wonder if his absence impacted the outcome.