We’re Gonna Take This Sitting Down
First, the unimportant news: NIU’s basketball game against WMU on Sunday has been canceled. Okay, let’s move on.
I’ve never been to Northern Illinois University. Or the city of DeKalb. But NIU athletics have been a solid foundation of Mid-American Conference sports for the last 45 years, rejoining the MAC back in ‘97. And I can’t really explain why I feel compelled to write some sort of post or article or smatterings of paragraphs dedicated to the lives lost and innocences shattered by the gunman who entered Cole Hall last night. But while in the past the unknown has caused some fun around here, for once this will be serious, and have a message … maybe, when I close the laptop. (warning: this is really long)
At least five are dead and 17 are wounded, but the numbers might be different when NIU awakes on Friday. I probably don’t know any of them, and the most tenuous of ties I’d have to them is that they might have been football fans or basketball fans.
Maybe they scoured the same message boards and national stories looking for some respect for their MAC teams. Maybe they, too, wanted to upset a Big Ten school here or there. And they might have been cheering against the teams from my alma mater. That’s all right, because I was cheering against their team. Especially on October 25, 2003, when Bowling Green beat previously unbeaten and ranked NIU on national television as ESPN GameDay came to campus. It was undeniably the most awesome sports day of my college life.
That game was revenge for the year before, when the roles were reversed and NIU upset then-unbeaten Bowling Green, 26-17. So there’s this fierce little football rivalry between the two schools. Too bad they’re not in the same division anymore.
And there I go again, talking about sports. Conference ties and athletic results are the only reason I feel some sort of connection with these people. And it’s almost pathological the way a nation pauses for an indefinite moment when a tragedy strikes an athlete, a team, or a college. It’s all explained pretty well in The Dugout’s episode of Cory Lidle’s death. We lay into (and in my case, make fun of) these teams and schools, then pat their back during their time of need, until the healing time has been sufficient, we get bored, and the games resume, then it’s a “no prisoners” mentality yet again.
In fact, maybe this entire exercise of spilling out my thoughts into a blog isn’t at all helpful for the NIU universe. (Especially if only a couple dozen people ever read it.) But it seems to be more for the author’s edification than for the victims.
When do I experience tragedy and anguish? Well, never, and I’m damn thankful for that. You have no idea how lucky I feel to be able to live a rather carefree life, with only minor inconveniences to worry about. You also have no idea how… how to put this… guilty that others have to suffer through this. Not just the families of those dead, but also for the dead. Tonight, for some reason, I tried to imagine what it would be like if a stranger, as I typed this, shot through my window and hit me in the back of the head. Who would know? How long would it take someone to find out? (Not to mention that I’m halfway across the country right now.) But what would I feel? (If anything?) What would be my last thought? What loose ends would be left in the world?
How would the families those lives lost
On Fark’s thread regarding this story, the very first respondant talked about his friend’s girlfriend being injured by bullet shrapnel. Shes one of the 22. I don’t know her, nor the commenter, but again there’s this connection I feel thanks to a website which I love, and another person who knows a victim, and there’s an inexplicable one-way bond I create in my own mind. That poor girl, having to spend Valentine’s Day in a hospital. At least she’s okay, and her boyfriend’s probably there, sharing it with her, making the best of it. But I don’t know these people, and here I am visualizing how it goes.
The next step in this whole thought process is what can make people certifiably insane. People suffer every day, and there will probably be another school shooting somewhere in the world, country, or maybe my own state. And there’s no way to be 100 percent preventative of it. It will happen again. To someone else. Maybe to me. That’s such a depressing and nihilistic thought. I’m going to stop thinking about that.
The mind goes in such crazy tangents that it’s hard to rein it in, especially when one’s through the rabbit hole so far that they have to think their way out of it.
So here’s the moral, if there is one to this story — if this really is a story in the first place.
I haven’t had an immediate family member die in 12 years. Twelve whole years. Damn near half my life. When I was 12 and two of my grandparents died, maybe it didn’t sink in. Who knows. But the next one that goes — whenever that may be — I’ll be damn cognizant of it, and while hopefully the passing away is a peaceful one and not violent, the entire thought process of death will go through my brain yet again. I can’t prepare for the timing of it, but to, so to speak, “practice” for the process might be, in some twisted fashion, done through blatantly indirect ties.
This happened internally with me after the DUI homicide in Toledo. How the family feels. How the deceased felt. Even how the drunk driver felt. Before that, it was the death of UT basketball player Haris Charalambous — one of my favorite basketball bench riders. A guy I saw play two minutes of unspectacular basketball a game. That’s all it took. I never shook hands with Haris Charalambous. But I was aghast at the news of his death. And the process began again.
For others, it could be other sources. A local soldier who lost his life overseas — he was from your hometown. A favorite artist or musician goes suddenly. A murder or kidnapping from your neck of the woods that makes national news. It resonates a little stronger in your own mind than everyone else, regardless of whether or not you interacted with that person.
And in this case we’re talking about students at a university. A university whose football team played my university in consecutive, competitive and symmetrical football games. They’re strangers who suffer, and I’m thinking about them. One can’t cope with the entire world’s suffering, but through one’s interests, one will be susceptible to secondhand anguish. It’s enough pain to absorb for a day or two, spend some time in profound thought, then move on, perhaps better equipped for that future day when someone close to that person leaves this earth.
So, in hindsight, this is probably just another vanity post — a post about how I operate mentally — one like many else out there written by countless millions. If the friends or family of an NIU student, no matter their condition, or just another soul-searching well-wisher happens across this post, and it makes them feel good inside, then that’s great.Tags: niu shootings, northern illinois, serious posts