Once again, we are helpless against the grief of others

    This is the photo my paper ran on the day after the massacre at Columbine—April 20, 1999, eight years ago tomorrow.

    So what is it about the third week of April? Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, Hitler's birthday, Columbine Massacre, and now Virginia Tech.

    Once again, some lunatic male has gone nuts with a gun and committed mass murder as a prelude to suicide. For me, as a journalist who covered Columbine in 1999, the shootings at Virginia Tech were deja vu. As soon as I heard about it, I knew what the scene would look like—people in shock, police and media everywhere, relatives and friends in tears, candlelight vigils.

    When the Columbine shootings occurred, I was at work, sitting at my desk, and the news came across the television behind me. (Trivia tidbit: Newspapers rely heavily on TV news stations, and most papers have a "secret alliance" with a particular paper. Ours didn't, but we did keep a TV on all the time.) Within two minutes we were on it.

    I worked three days non-stop more or less. Then on the third day, I just lost it and cried my eyes out. It was the anguish of the parents who'd lost children that broke my heart. I heard stories that didn't necessarily make the news, and I felt what I imagine everyone felt and what so many of us feel any time one of these horrendous catastrophes occurs: I wanted to do something to take away the pain of parents. And, of course, there is nothing you can do. At one point I remember throwing the photos of the two shooters onto a faraway desk because their faces were really getting to me. One of my reporters left journalism shortly after Columbine. She was so traumatized by it, she couldn't do journalism any longer.

    So this time we didn't cover the story directly; we're in Colorado, not Virginia. We did run some wire op-eds about it. But what I kept seeing in my mind, even though I watched very little coverage, was the parents' grief. I must admit, too, to some disgust about how the whole incident was handled, though I can see how the police would have assumed the shooting was over. Generally rampages don't involve two-hour recesses.

    I'm so sorry. And that's all I know how to say.

    Other things that happened this week:

    One of my favorite all-time journalists and a very good friend left the paper this week to follow dreams elsewhere. I cried. And cried. And sent myself flowers. We took him out for sashimi (sorry Ronlyn!) and then after work headed over to the local brew pub for a few pints and to relive favorite memories. It was so bittersweet. I was on the email with him by 9 this morning. Live free and write strong, Vince.

    I gave up coffee for four days and I had a migraine every day. Having gotten precisely four hours of sleep last night, I said, "To bloody hell with this," and hit Caffe Solé, my fave coffee shop, for a triple vanilla latte. Coffee never tasted so good.

    We're smack-dab in the middle of our biggest paper of the year, our annual Best of Boulder edition. Best taco? Best pizza? Best hardward store? Best reason to drink frigging hemlock?!?! I always swear I'll be rich or dead before the next B.O.B. edition. So far I've failed at both. I will be having convulsions and bleeding from the ears by next Thursday. It's going to be 120 pages.

    My son's GF began her internship as a photographer at the paper. She knocked on the door during a staff meeting and said, "I just wanted to give you a hug." So I gave her a big hug, then said to the staff, "I always form a close relationship with our photo intern." Which she thought was hilarious and which the new person didn't understand at all, of course -- which is exactly what made it funny.

    Sorry, no fiction updates in this post. Not even time to think of Marc and Sophie.

    Deneice, welcome. I hope you'll come back again and post with us.

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