And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
This is the hardest blog I’ve ever had to write. It’s the hardest one I’ve ever had to think about.
I live in the heart of downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin. My business, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, is here too – we live in a live-where-you-work condo.
Last Sunday was the city’s holiday Christmas parade. I was hoping to take my 8-year old granddaughter, Maya Mae, to it, but then Michael fell ill, as I wrote about last week. He’s home now, but I didn’t want to leave him on his own for any length of time. I didn’t know if my son and his wife decided to take Maya.
It was shortly after the parade started when I took some garbage out. I was expecting to hear the sound of the marching bands and maybe some cheering and laughter. Instead, I heard screams. And then sirens. Lots of sirens. So many sirens, and they weren’t traveling away. They were all around me.
One of my neighbors drove in and stopped next to me and rolled down her window. “Someone drove into the Christmas parade!” she cried. “I have a police scanner app on my phone! It’s horrible!”
It was. It was beyond horrible.
My first thought was of my son, my daughter-in-law. My granddaughter. I called my son and when he answered, I shouted into the phone, “Are you home? Are you safe?”
“We’re fine. Why?”
They’d gone grocery shopping. It was too cold and windy for the parade.
Then I called my middle son, in case he stopped to watch the parade on his way home from work. I called my youngest daughter, in case she and her best friend at college decided to go see the parade. I even dialed my oldest daughter before I remembered she lives in Louisiana now, and there was no way she’d be at the parade.
I think I went on auto-pilot. A shivering, shuddering sobbing auto-pilot.
As of today, six people have died from this rampage. One is an 8-year old boy. Over 60 people are in our area hospitals. One is the 12-year old brother of that 8-year old boy. The driver was caught. He wasn’t on a political attack. He wasn’t making a statement of any sort. He was running from a “domestic disturbance”. He drove through the first set of barricades at the beginning of the parade and, when he found himself on the parade route, apparently decided this was a good way to express his anger. Observers and police said his actions appeared intentional.
I have an imagination. I’m a writer, I’ve put my mind and my thoughts into all sorts of minds and bodies and souls and situations. But I can’t imagine being so angry, possibly at one person, that I would attack an entire parade of strangers. Strangers that included children, marching in a parade, watching a parade, laughing and waiting to be tossed candy.
I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine feeling that way.
I watched on Tuesday as the driver appeared for the first time in court, for his bail to be set. The judge placed the bail at five million dollars.
The prosecutor told the court and the judge that a sixth death was added, and it was the 8-year old boy. The driver, who kept his head down throughout the proceeding, only looking up once at the judge, began to sob.
And God help me, I didn’t care. When the prosecutor said that he could be given a life sentence for each of the deaths, at least 6 now, at least 6 consecutive life sentences, who knows how many by the time this goes to court, I heard myself think, Good! Don’t ever let him see the light of day again! Is there a way we can put the death penalty into effect for just one person? And then I amended, No, no death penalty. Let him suffer in prison for the rest of his life. Let. Him. Suffer.
This was me, thinking that. This was me. I’ve been almost as shook by my own thoughts and feelings as I’ve been over this whole horrible impossible tragedy.
I’ve written about some pretty difficult and terrible things. Always, I’ve forced myself into the “bad guy’s” head, to make him or her human, to find out the why of their existence, and to feel for them. To feel some compassion. I’ve always succeeded in doing so.
During the Dahmer summer and afterwards, I listened to interviews with his grandmother and others who knew his background. Jeffrey Dahmer was a monster. But I felt compassion for him anyway.
Just last week, when Kyle Rittenhouse collapsed in court after he was told he’d walk away a free man, I teared up. I believe the verdict was dead wrong – he deserved punishment. But when he collapsed in court, I saw a then-17, now 18-year old boy who was in an impossible situation. I felt compassion.
But in a moment that froze me so hard, I still get the chills, I wanted Darrell Brooks dead. Or locked away and suffering forever.
That’s so not me. But this is an unbelievable, unfathomable situation.
Trying to come up with a moment of happiness has been so difficult this week. But on Tuesday, when I talked to my granddaughter, my Grandbaby Maya Mae, we discussed how schools have been closed this week, due to what happened at the parade, and how she wished she was in school. I assumed she was just missing the fun.
She looked at me, and her always huge eyes were even huger. They were wide and shiny, and they were filled with the compassion I so wished I could feel.
“Grandma Kathie,” she said, her pronunciation of my role and name no longer the Gamma Kaffee she said and I treasured for so long, “I just want to know that my friends are okay.”
In her eyes, in her compassion, I recognized my own. I just want to know that my little city is okay. I just want to reach out to everyone who has been hurt, and we’ve all been hurt, so I want to reach out to everybody. I want to do everything I can to help.
And in Maya Mae, there is another compassionate generation coming along.
I don’t feel any compassion for Darrell Brooks. Yet. Maybe I will, by the time this is all done. But that’s okay. My heart is in the right place, even if it’s very broken right now.
That’s the best I can do this week, everyone. I want you all to be okay.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.