Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

That Day

When I was a child I remember feeling this deep sense of jealousy over the Kennedy assassination. A feeling of exclusion from this club that remembered exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard that the President had been shot. We had a big earthquake, but that seemed different somehow. That was just something natural that happened, not necessarily a unifying experience. Until high school there was never a unifying moment like that in my generation. I was too young to remember the Challenger blowing up. Too young even to really have had a reaction to the Oklahoma City Bombing. This may seem like a sick thing to have felt jealousy about, but I was a kid. I didn’t get then that the true bonding experience came from this kind of universal mourning that happens in the wake of a national or international tragedy.

On April 20th, 1999 I was sick. Like really really sick. So sick I probably shouldn’t have been at school, but my mom wouldn’t let me out that easily. I had to be hospitalized to be allowed to miss a day of school. It was also, as the date suggests 4/20, which, in Santa Cruz, is a kind of town holiday . Everyone smokes pot all day and it’s pretty much overlooked by academic administrations, police officers, parents, teachers, the whole town becomes complacent in this 24 hour long Cheech and Chong movie.

On that particular 4/20 my fellow classmates thought I was the most stoned out of all of them. My bloodshot, glazed over eyes, my out of it demeanor could only mean one thing. Of course, I’ve never been a huge fan of pot (I’m being serious) and as I said before, I was really sick, hence the glazed eyes and inability to focus. Little did we know that day would be the first day a tragedy unified us. The first time we could all finally say we remember where we were when we watched those lines of kids covered in blood, running across a field at gun point, hands over heads, to triage areas and swat vans. We finally had an experience that we would remember always, that would leave an indelible mark on our collective consciousness.

In all honesty, I don’t remember much of that day. In my Dayquill induced stupor I remember coming home to watch the Rosie O’Donnell Show and instead seeing blood spattered children crying on T.V. before I passed out for the better part of the afternoon. I remember my parents coming home and talking about what had happened in Colorado. My mother asked me if she ever thought something like that could happen at my school, to which I responded in the normal teenage way: an exaggerated roll of the eyes and brush off. What did it matter anyway? Everyone liked me, or maybe everyone had no clue who the hell I was, but I wasn’t a complete tool like those water polo players. If anyone should be worried it was them.

What I really remember is the aftermath. The school assemblies. The mourning in class. The trappings of tragedy that seemed so far removed from what was important to me at the time. Still, I remember our first ‘Lockdown’ drill, where we were told what to do if an armed intruder were to come onto our campus. I remember teachers and students alike thinking what a fucking waste of time it was. I remember thinking that the problem at Soquel High tended to revolve around the fact that many of my fellow students were already battling meth problems, heroin problems and the vast majority could be classified as alcoholics, not just getting wasted at a party, but actual alcoholics.

So when I saw that there was a new book entitled simply, Columbine, coming out, I grabbed the free copy from work and stared at it for a month. Did I really want to go back there? Where was I going back to exactly? Well, last week I found out, and it was nowhere near what I expected. I realized something as I read that book (which is amazing and everyone should read it); I have never dealt with what I felt about that tragedy.

I came to realize that I reacted to that event as any fifteen year old would. I shrugged it off and thought about the mountain of homework I had piling up. Thought about the fact that the boy I liked had a girlfriend and my friends seemed hell-bent on self-destruction. I didn’t have time for anyone but me, and my tragedy of being in high school in a town I couldn’t stand with people I thought were obnoxious.

But really, somewhere along the way I had buried the fact that we all watched on television as horrors were exacted on an unsuspecting and innocent population of people my age. And as this book has come out and started to make waves, being touted as a new In Cold Blood, people in my office (who are all around my age) have all come out with their stories of where they were and what they were doing when they first heard that a high school in Colorado was under attack. Now, as a twenty-five year old woman, I’m not so keen on this idea of generational unification through tragedy. Not so jealous now that I understand why the Kennedy generation has those strong memories. Unfortunately, the only way to learn this lesson seems to be though experience. An experience I don’t wish on anyone.

Peace and Love,


May 4, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Probably best that you have no memory of the JFK assassination. It has haunted those who cared about him and his presidency for a lifetime…and it has caused me untold agony as I’ve searched for the truth of it.

    Tim Fleming

    Comment by Tim Fleming | May 5, 2009 | Reply

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