Saying goodbye is so very difficult. It is next to impossible to move beyond a tragedy such as the Appalachian School of Law shooting on January 16, 2002. How can we say goodbye when everywhere we turn we see the same bureaucratic bungling and insensitivity in dealing with human lives, yet say goodbye is what we had to begin doing on the 19th of January 2002. On that terrible January day the gray clouds were heavy over southwest Virginia—almost as if we could reach out and touch them. It was as if heaven and earth were coming together to mourn. The mist mingled with the tears on our faces, tears that have yet to dry.
The funeral home was packed to overflowing and not all the flowers could be brought in for the ceremony. The strains of “The Love Theme” from Titanic played in the background. That day, in that setting, we began bit by bit to rebuild. But it has been very difficult to pull our lives back together because of the lack of sensitivity to tragedy, a lack of sensitivity that appears to know no bounds. It is next to impossible to say goodbye and find peace when everyday there are pictures of young American men and women who have died or been maimed in Iraq because of half-truths, bureaucratic mistakes, and incompetence on the part of elected and appointed officials.
Danny Dales told me it is particularly difficult for him to see those faces. He sees faces with the same dreams, the promise and the gusto for life; he thinks of the parents who are in agony. A friend of his lost a son in Iraq. Danny told me—his face flushed and his eyes full of tears—all I want is to be there to listen to the father’s grief, to say I understand; your dreams, you hopes have died—there is an emptiness that nothing can fill. Much of what you live for has been taken away from you; I understand, I am here if you need me. I understand.
Everywhere we went we found people with similar stories; stories of callous treatment and downright dishonesty when dealing with the victims of a tragedy. (To be continued)