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I can't imagine

I can't imagine
The Capital Gazette shooting strikes close to home

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
June 29, 2018

There was another mass shooting Thursday in the United States. This time it was not at a school or at an Army post or at a church or at a night club. This time it was at a newspaper. As a journalist -- with 50 years in the business -- this struck closer to home than most. This is my turf.

As the story broke Thursday afternoon, my heart sank as I went into immediate prayer. Each time there was an update, I updated my prayer.

So many times I say to the Lord as these sort of incidents grab the headlines: "I don't understand, Lord," I wail. "I don't understand!"

When I told a priest friend of mine about my constant wailing prayer to the Lord, he replied: "There is no understanding it," he said. "Evil is incomprehensible."

That I understand.

This year I have been a journalist for 50 years, way more than half a life time ... even more than two-thirds of my life has been spend reporting, writing and editing news. I have covered a myriad of events and happenings, including one live shooting, more than 40 years ago, in a county commission meeting in Florida.

Bullets flew one Tuesday evening at the DeSoto County Commission meeting over brackish water seine fishing along the southern end of the Peace River.

The Peace River flows southwest from Polk County to Hardee County and through DeSoto County toward the Charlotte Harbor estuary in the extreme southwest corner of the county as it touches Charlotte County.

I remember the county commission chairman diving for the floor, screaming "Someone call the sheriff!" The shooter was not shooting at people, rather he was shooting up the ceiling of the DeSoto County Commission meeting room. He was trying to catch the commissioners' attention and make a point. Well, he got their attention, I am not too sure whether he made his point.

The DeSoto County Courthouse is a beautiful Neoclassical Revival three story brick edifice with columns and marble and rich wood paneling. It turned 100-years-old five years ago and it has survived hurricanes -- Hurricane Charlie swept up the Peace River corridor in 2004 -- and a seine fishing rampage shooting.

Even after all these years, I remember writing my headline late that night: "Bullets Flew at the DeSoto County Commission Meeting Tuesday Night."

I haven't actively thought of the seine fishing incident in years until The Capital Gazette was shot up Thursday afternoon. Then the dark and faded memories started flowing back.

I once had to write a news story and obituary for my friend's son who was killed at midnight in a car wreck in the panhandle of Florida. I wrote through my tears. My son and I went to his funeral in Georgia and later, I was the crucifer at his burial in Louisiana. I clutched that processional cross, weeping.

I can't imagine writing the news story reporting the killing of five newspaper colleagues whom you have worked with side-by-side for years. These are people you have come to know professionally and trust and respect as you have worked together on deadline, getting a newspaper out on the street in the wee hours of the morning before the cock crows.

The surviving Capital Gazelle reporters -- who themselves dove under their desks and heard the sound of bullets flying in their newsroom -- had to do exactly that. Put out a newspaper with banner headlines which read: "5 shot dead at The Capital."

This memory will stick with them the rest of their lives. They were not covering a story outside of themselves, they were covering an event which broke through their own newspaper's front doors and right on into their newsroom. I can't imagine that, even with my many years of active street beat reporting.

Reporters are not supposed to be a part of the story. In a way, we record a community's history be it a local community, a school community, a military community, or a church community.

As a mother I can't imagine holding my dead son's body in my arms. Praise God my son is alive and well. But the Virgin Mary did exactly that when her Son, Jesus, was taken down from the Cross and placed in her arms. Michelangelo memorialized that event in his famed Pietà. I have a very miniature version of that sculpture to remind me of what Mary did as a Jesus' grieving mother. I have prayed, many times, that I never have to emulate her. I fear I would not have the spiritual strength to survive it.

Remember my friend who died at midnight on the Florida highway? His mother, too, held the dead body of her teenage son in her arms. She said every bone in his body was broken. He was a passenger in the car and the driver was drinking. The teenage driver was drunk! And the driver hardly got a scratch.

I am so surprised at how much crime I have had to report while at Virtue Online. I am a religion writer, after all, not a crime reporter. I'll just name a few of the crime stories that crossed over into the religion beat: Bishop Heather Cook's deadly hit 'n run accident and prison sentence ... St. Paul's School Senior Salute sex scandal ... Staten Island's St. Paul's Memorial Episcopal Church firebombed ... Pedophile sex ring scandal rocks Anglican Church of Australia ... Episcopal priest dies in arson fire at Ocean City Episcopal church ... Episcopal priest, his wife and youngest son, slain by eldest son in Houston ... Death comes to a Maryland Episcopal church; three die in killer's rampage ... Ordinariate priest embroiled in spousal kidnapping and marital abuse case ... Yokamon Hearn surrounded by prayer while executed ...

The Church is not immune from violence and death. Crime -- let's call it what it really is ... SIN! -- invades not only the Church but the newsroom as well.

In supporting journalists, President Donald Trump said Friday: "Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job."

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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