A news story:
A 13-year-old local boy admitted in Family Court on Tuesday that he accidentally shot his friend to death last winter. The boy also said, when questioned by the county judge, that he understood why a loaded handgun is dangerous. The prosecutor said that he, the boy and his attorney, and the boy's parents had reached a plea bargain and the boy would be sentenced to nothing more restrictive than probation. The victim was visiting his friend’s home at the time of the shooting. The boys were alone in the house and found a handgun and ammunition owned by the defendant’s father. They started playing with the gun, loading it and unloading it several times, until it went off, police said. The dead boy's mother said not only is her son dead as a result of the incident, but her father as well. In January he visited his grandson's grave and, disoriented by grief, wandered into a highway and was hit and killed. The father of the defendant faces a charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
I read stories like this and usually stop and think for a few minutes about the sadness of it all. Maybe I mutter to myself a little bit about the parents' lack of foresight and how so many lives are ruined now. But I don't think about how the ripples from the act of a single moment spread to change circumstances so far beyond the original event.
Think about the defendant's parents as they move through the local store on a regular grocery shopping trip.
The boy will get probation, so he's lucky. But he'll be in school. He'll be the kid who killed his friend. For the rest of his life, no matter if he moves away, no matter if people around him know it or not.
Think about the truck driver who killed the grandfather. Is that guy having nightmares? Did the accident impact his employment? ...his marriage?
I recently read two novels, in the space of two or three days, that gripped and froze me in the experience of being close to tragic crimes. I recommend both of these, but include this caveat: have a happy book in reserve to follow!