The infield dirt and baseline chalk have washed out, and his powder-blue uniform looks good as new . . . .
It’s taken me a couple of days to process the events of Tuesday evening so that I could write about them with less emotion and more objectivity. Not being about songwriting or my science music, perhaps this has no place on my blog, but this is an important topic so you’ll just have to indulge me (or just move on to my next blog post).
Let me set the scene. My wife and I took my youngest (of 3) son, Henry, to Starkville’s McKee Park for his Park & Rec baseball game. We showed up a little before 7, had baseball pictures taken near the basketball court, then headed for the baseball field for Henry’s 7:45 game.
It didn’t start out as Henry’s strongest game. He let a grounder through his legs in right-center in the top of the first inning. He struck out looking in the bottom of the second. By the end of the third, his team trailed 18-0. Then in the top of the fourth, as my wife and I sat in the third-base line bleachers, we heard a quick succession of gunshots off to our left (presumably from the parking lot).
Everyone, spectators and players alike, got to the ground. Coaches and umpires told (and in some cases assisted) outfield players to crawl toward the infield, and infield players to crawl toward the dugouts. Moving low to the ground, I went out to meet my son by the time he had made it to the third-base line. He had army-crawled his way in from the outfield.
There are many kudos to be handed out – to the coaches and umpires who provided direction to the players, to the parents who brought/shared snacks in an effort to comfort crying/scared children, to the Park & Rec staff member who walked up to the field and updated us on the situation shortly after the police arrived, then informed us when and how we could safely exit the park. Obviously, the Starkville Police deserve the biggest thanks — my son was extremely impressed by how quickly police were on the scene. Reading the news reports of arrests made, I am equally impressed with how quickly the police/investigators managed to identify and arrest the suspects.
Obviously, this is not an experience that a parent expects when taking a child to a Park & Rec baseball game. Through it all, my 9 year-old son kept his composure remarkably well and seems to show no ill-effects. This is the same child I protected (wow — nearly 7 years ago) when an EF-3 tornado rolled through our Tupelo neighborhood. He was only 2 years old at the time and I gave up trying to keep a bike helmet on his head as we sat under a workbench in our neighbor’s basement.
The tornado and this shooting incident were harrowing, but very different, experiences. The tornado could not be prevented or perfectly predicted, but it could be prepared for. This random gun violence at a public park — there’s no way to have seen that coming.
So what to do now? Any time gun violence makes the news, it becomes a political football/land mine. I don’t have solutions to offer. As for the suspects, I have even fewer answers. I look at those mugshots, and my heart aches for their families. What they did was stupid and dangerous, and there must be accountability. But I also have compassion – a bad choice during a moment of passion should not define one’s life or shape one’s entire future.
What I do know is that, for the good of our children, we, as a society, need to figure this out . . . .