On Valentine's Day 2008, shortly after 3 p.m., I was working in my home office while Linda, my wife and mother of my two sons, was in another room where one of the 24-hour cable news channels was providing background white noise to her own work.
Suddenly, I heard her say: "Merkel! NIU..."
Two simple words-- but something in her voice froze me in mid-keystroke. NIU is where my son Jeff is a student...
...Today it is Tuesday, and only a few days have passed. Today, there are other parents who a week ago were, perhaps, also frowning at their college-student child's cell phone bill, wondering how in the world one kid could know this many people. Today, they mourn that they can't call that cell phone number and hear a now-silenced voice.
I thank God Linda and I are not among them, even as our hearts go out to those who lost children in the tragic shooting.
But amid the lingering darkness, there is some light-- particularly in the glow of the many heroes who also emerged that awful day. Jeff --a former Navy Corpsman who spend five years wandering around Iraq and Afghanistan as "Doc Merkel" to his Marines, was one of them.
Jeff is safe. Jeff is safe.
I still can't put any other of my own words on paper-- so I'll let Jeff talk in his own words, courtesy of Newsweek Magazine. You can read them here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/112782
Jeff is safe. Jeff is safe... it's a refrain I still can't silence inside my head. It's likely I never shall.
(Postscript note: Oline Cogdill, the marvelous wordsmith who is book reviewer for the Fort Lauderdale FL Sun-Sentinel, posted a moving and evocative article on her blog which is far more coherent than the ramblings above of a mind-numbed parent. She said everything I've been feeling, but did it with a marvelous economy of words. You can read it here: http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/features/arts/offthepage/blog/ )