I wonder how Alex would react to getting shot at? He might laugh and clap; he might duck. I don’t know. I wonder how he’d react to getting shot. I imagine he’d scream and cry, but I don’t know for sure and I of course I can’t ask him. He is tough and went through a lot of physically painful stuff, mostly in his youngest days. Next summer he turns 18.
“This was a very soft target … very unassuming,” one expert said. “I’ll take a bullet before you do, that’s for damned sure!” said one cop in a just-released video as he lead human-services office workers – and at least one child – to safety. They marched with hands up down yellowish corridors past drawings of wreaths, Christmas trees and wooden soldiers. I’ve walked through a lot of similar hallways with Alex.
“The attack is especially devastating because of its target: the Inland Regional Center, a nonprofit that offers therapy and other services to developmentally disabled children in the region,” read of the first backgrounders on the site of the shooting. “It’s a dull name for an organization that is a lifeline for families of disabled kids. The state-run charity sends caseworkers and therapists to the homes of young people with autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and other intellectual disabilities.”
“To be eligible for services,” added the website of The California Department of Disabilities, “a person must have a disability that begins before the person's 18th birthday, be expected to continue indefinitely and present a substantial disability.”
On Wednesday morning, 14 staffers at the center encountered prematurely the most substantial disability of all. Almost two dozen more were wounded by a pair of shooters who didn’t hesitate to open fire around the helpless, the unarmed, the police or anyone else. None of the casualties was an adult version of Alex.
And the survivors were “wounded,” by the way, not “injured.” Injured is what happened to Alex when he tore around the corner of our living room one evening while he was still trying to learn how to go to sleep and slipped down on the hardwood floor. “Wounded” is what happens when people start shooting, in this case in a building filled with people that we’ve all agreed in our hearts – if not in our budget committees – need protection or the living wage to provide it.
I said it on Facebook yesterday and I repeat it here: Hell has no fire hot enough for who did this. “How I wish I could believe in hell at this moment,” said one reader.
Ned practices shooter lockdowns in his high school, which I admit probably offers more protective value than duck-and-covers of 60 years ago. Alex would probably enjoy lockdown drills; he likes to help and move and be involved. Still, what could it have been like when bullets starting flying out of a world some of the people in IRC have trouble understanding in the first place? (Not like the rest of us.) Or out of world where you thought you were trying to help people that, again, we’ve all agreed need help? It probably resembles how any innocent person feels being slaughtered when all they thought they were doing was getting through a day of work or just another day of life.
Such as the poor four overshadowed folks (one dead) in Savannah, Georgia, or the luckless dead person (possibly a suspect) in Houston on Wednesday. Tough break in terms of headlines, much like the luck of the World War II troops who liberated Rome some 48 hours before D-Day in France.
There wasn’t much about any one of those three cities on Twitter, where I parked on Wednesday night to hear the latest as it happened. Mostly all I saw was conservatives and liberals sniping at each other over open borders and gun lunacy. (For the record, I grew up in Maine and slept every night as a schoolboy in a room that also contained a lever-action deer rifle and a bolt-action shotgun. The room did not contain semi-automatic AR-15s).
As it got late, I was loathe to close my search for answers; at last I did go to bed, wondering what they were thinking at Alex’s school, a beautiful yet sprawling farm campus that a whole armored battalion couldn’t protect.
Wednesday’s newsmakers walked in and did something that probably would’ve appalled even the most sadistic workers at Willowbrook. It’s enough to make you believe in hell. “The parents and siblings of several children who have been treated there,” said one of the last reporter’s I read last night, “told me that they couldn’t understand why anyone would want to attack the IRC.”
Join the club. Soft targets will always be very tempting.