I noticed yesterday that the new book about Columbine is out. I’m not going to read it. I remember enough about the day and the subsequent stories to last me the rest of my life. Enough to say, “what a wretched day” and go on. But the anniversary will surely mean more coverage, and there have been many trials since then, so it seemed to me a good time to post a link to a talk I presented at RWA in 2004:
Author preface: It’s a dark talk, but remember, I do know how to deliver a happy ending….
It’s an unholy world we’re living in, isn’t it? Over the past five years, it has become an increasingly dangerous place. I sometimes look back and think, “What happened?”
For me, the dark times started on April 20, 1999.
An unholy date. Hitler’s birthday, but more specific to our current situation, it is the day two boys went into a suburban high school and murdered 12 children and themselves.
Those killing happened 100 miles from us, and they hit my eldest son very hard. They hit ME hard. My sense of safety was shattered, and there was no way to put it back together again.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was taking my son to school the next morning. Where a cataclysm could happen.
Where he was no longer safe.
I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterward. I thought of the parents of the children who were murdered, and the parents of the children who did the killing, and my soul was torn with unease.
I wanted to fix it. Solve it. Heal it. What could I do? There had to be some way to stop the madness.
It is an unholy world we are living in.
A couple of summers ago, I went to France for a hiking trip with a good friend of mine. It was a personal test-to see if I really had achieved the fitness levels I’d been working toward, and a reward for giving up cigarettes.
I wanted to see if I had the courage to venture into a world where I didn’t know the language, and hike-seriously hike– for seven days with a small group. My life had been changing and I needed time to see where I might be going next. On those hills in Provence, sweating, I found some answers. Or what I thought were answers.
I was buoyed by my discoveries. I was cheered.
3 thoughts on “Writing as an act of faith”
Barbara, I remember you delivering this talk in New Zealand too. It was a clarifying moment for me and many of my fellow attendees. Yesterday was the anniversary, here, of the canyoning tragedy where six students and a teacher were swept away to their deaths. My youngest daughter, as a student leader (house captain,) attended a memorial service last night as a representative of her high school. I waited up for her, and when she came home we talked and hugged for quite a while. It’s times like these, the anniversaries, that really make you take stock and be grateful for the blessings in your life. The kids who died were the same age as my youngest daughter and it is a sorrow filled realisation that those families have not enjoyed the past year watching the milestones of achievement and sharing the love from their children that I’ve been lucky enough to share with my daughter.
Of course, one thing that does (for me, at least) seem a real shame about this tragedy is that the focus appears to be always on the ones who were lost. There were also survivors. And I feel their struggle over the past year deserves mention too, as does that of the survivors of Columbine.
While the loss of those gone is a gaping hole in so many lives and hearts, the strength and determination and, yes, even the guilt suffered by the survivors, I believe, deserves recognition also.
(P.S. Barbara, I’d love to read your full address again, but the link to the rest of your talk doesn’t appear to work at the moment.)
Oh Barbara, I love this so much. I remember hearing you give this speech, and then forwarding a copy to every writer I know. The way you can synthesize tragedy with hope is truly a gift!
Thank you for this. I forwarded the link to the members of my Feeding the Muse group. You make some fine and important points about the artist’s work in the world.