I have “mourned” over the last couple of years the fact that I have been living away from what had for so many years become “my city” – Salt Lake City. But in light of what happened last night at Trolley Square it would be utterly ridiculous – the worst possible narcissism for me to use the term “mourn” merely because I miss the life I once had in “my city.”
Last night, in a matter of minutes, six people died at Trolley Square* and others were critically wounded. Grief and mourning belongs to those who lost their loved ones who were innocently shopping for Valentine’s Day, having birthday dinners, or just spending a night at the mall.
True mourning also belongs to a Bosnian family, having come to this country to escape the horrors of being Muslims in the wrong place and time, and having lived a ravaged, horrific existence. They now are forced to struggle not only with the death of their child and brother, eighteen-year-old Sulejman Talovic, but must grapple with the inexplicable, incomprehensible concept that this “good boy” had become a mass murderer. And no one will ever know why.
I suppose one could be relieved that this didn’t take place less than a month ago, during the Sundance Film Festival. I’ve been to Festival premieres at the theatre directly across the street from Trolley Square. I don’t know if the Festival uses those theatres any more, but if they do and that had been the timing, the Trolley Square area would have been filled with thousands of people rather than hundreds. Also, had this massacre been today and not yesterday, I’m sure that there would have been hundreds of additional last-minute Valentine’s Day shoppers on the scene.
And I cannot help but think of all the myriad times I went to Trolley Square. I have fond recollections of almost every restaurant and store in the place. Those memories will never seem quite the same. Nevertheless, like the perspective I now have that makes my use of the word “mourning” in terms of my own “loss” seem flippant, I acknowledge that I cannot begin to comprehend what the employees and children and families and individuals who were THERE experienced. Those memories burned an indelible mark in each participant’s psyche, I’m certain.
But it’s important to acknowledge that there were champions – heroes – there last night amidst the horror and turmoil. I am proud of the quick and appropriate response of the Salt Lake City Police. I am proud of the off-duty Ogden Police Officer who was having an early Valentine’s date with his pregnant wife, who, having assessed the situation, sent her to call 911 and tell others to “lock down” and then engaged and distracted the gunman and doubtless saved many lives. I am proud of store owners and employees who warned people – some risking their own lives in the process – to stay away from the shooter and those who sheltered frightened patrons in their storage rooms, bathrooms and even a freezer. I am proud of the first shooting victim, seriously wounded from being hit multiple times as he was leaving the mall, who ran back TOWARDS the shopping center in order to warn others not to come outside. If I am not mistaken, his selfless actions also prompted the first 911 call. These individuals claim that they did “what anyone else would have done in the same situation.” Even if that is the case, they are still heroes.
Now I mourn for “my city” – not for myself, but for this senseless tragedy. I grieve, too, that it is a reality in LIFE that senseless tragedy can happen at any time and any place, bringing out the very worst in humanity but also the very best, as though Janus incarnate.
My thoughts and no doubt the good wishes of people around the World go out the seriously wounded:
Alan “AJ” Walker, who lost his Father
Carolyn Tuft, who lost her Daughter
Shawn Munns, who ran towards danger, not away from it
And in honoured memory of:
Jeffery Walker, Father of sixteen-year-old Alan “AJ” Walker
Kirsten Hinckley, fifteen-year-old Daughter of Carolyn Tuft
I cannot presume to imagine how much they will be missed.