Forget, Remember. Too Early
The retrospective gaze of a twenty-one year old. A certain third-party apathy mixes with the desire to drown memory in wine. A 2006 cabernet sauvignon - allowing the tannins, the body to wallow on the tongue with hints of black cherry, plum, vanilla. Glass after glass, making chic the art of forgetting.
Wine is the choice intoxicator. Celebrate wine in all its splendor on April 20th. Not those grassier choices. Not the inhalation of hallucinogenic humor, stimulation of contemplation. This is not a day to dwell on.
But of course, you forget. All the better perhaps, when there's no humor in remembering. Though maybe you were hundreds and hundreds, no thousands of miles deep in safety. Or perhaps like me, you want to forget.
Forget April 20th, 1999. Forget Littleton, Colorado. Forget thirteen dead, scores wounded. Forget the day that made suburban a high school a guerilla war zone. Forget the state flower dashed in dark red, no longer the Blue Columbine.
Forget with me.
We'll start five miles away. Children are running through the stones in the playground, back toward classrooms though isn't over yet. Yes, run, run children don't walk, don't line up. Get inside! Leave the soccer ball, leave it!
Inside the classroom - the dark classroom, no, don't turn the light on! The frazzled substitute searches the desk for a video, something - ah! Valley Forge. Then pops it in the VCR. Then sits. Then rises. Don't leave! I'm just going to go ask the front office something. And she's out, in the hall and away.
And we are quiet. No one says, sh! But we mingle in whispers, ten-year-old theorists passing their privileged information. Some crazy guy is over at Powell Middle School, says one keeper of knowledge, waving a gun around. He might walk the mile down here and wave a gun at us.
And she's back. And she's quiet and we're quiet. And the air is palpitating with anything but quiet.
And we're in the passenger seat too early with a father that's cutting corners too tightly and a radio broadcasting too clearly. Too clearly telling us too many journalistic theories of a neighborhood that's too dangerous with too many, who knows how many, too many crazy men waving guns around, opening fire on the neighborhood. No wasted bullets. It seems no wasted bullets. Where are they, who are they... stay away.
Stay away, we think in bed, staring at the chair mere feet from our feet. Stay away to the man in the chair who will shoot me if I say to him, stay away. Who will kill me indiscriminately if I move indiscriminately. So we barely breathe, don't breathe. he may be a shadow of the light, but only may be. No, no, no. Shouldn't move. We won't move, don't move.
We don't move from the living room we watch the news, glues we watch the news. We watch scenes no R rating could could hide. No fiction, nonfiction. No, fiction can lie. Lie about the bloody body falling from the second-story library, half-conscious body, glass ridden body, dying body. Out that window we've driven by so many times, too many times, so many times. With the girl in the voiceover in utter disbelief drench in shock. How could it happen here? How this quiet, unassuming school? How here? How did it happen here?
And we're in church and we listen as Pastor Barry finally explains but what he explains no one will explain. They just bring us forward, here, yes here sign your name. For Rachel Scott? Yes, for Rachel Scott. Why only Rachel Scott? There were others, yes twelve others that died.
The girl who couldn't, who didn't, who couldn't finish out the year. The girl and her friends and their friends and their not so friends and their wounded and their dying, not dying, am I dying? friends. No one could. No one did finish the year. No one to the shattered halls and windows and adolescent memories. Many never returned, even when shattered halls were reformed and changed, never the same as each friend was never the same it was never the same.
With thirteen dead. Yes, thirteen - not fifteen - thirteen. We don't count the killers, they are not victims, they took with their own lives thirteen others. No, not the friend in the parking lot - they told him he should get out of there. Not anther who drove away but moments before. Not the seniors exploring grasses to simulate hallucinogenic contemplation nor the seniors skipping out, missing out.
Still, thirteen. Not soldiers, not workers, not lawyers, not patients. Twelve students, twelve teenagers, twelve children growing out of childhood, twelve leaders of our future, not the future, not our future, anymore. Twelve students and a teacher. A teacher who risked, who worried, who sacrificed to get his students out first, students first - get them out first, get them out. Got them out. A teacher, not the SWAT team outside, waiting unsure, too unsure, yes unsure who is killing, who is shooting who to shoot. So many killed but we don't know we must wait until we know, until we know we know we must wait.
And wait and wait and thirteen killed, dozens wounded.
Hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands and thousands and millions watch in memory of a memorial to remember, somehow remember tragedy with tranquility. Thousands, maybe millions, not just in Littleton, not just in Colorado or the United States, all over the world we listen to Pastor Barry, our pastor speak, yet again. But not just for Rachel Scott, for eleven other students, a teacher, and dozens upon dozens wounded still in hospitals. Thousands and millions watch the rainbow stretch across the stormy sky behind the stage behind the podium set up to remember. Thousands and millions watch the thirteen doves escape and fly and fly toward the rainbow, disappear in the sky like the souls of the thirteen now white, no more red no more blood, pure white.
And we disperse, walking through posters and banners and flyers and photographs of those who remember those lost to memory. Of those whose hearts bleed for those no longer bleeding. Our church's poster, friends' posters, families' posters, schools' posters, communities' posters, communities in Littleton in Colorado in the United States, all over the world.
Then years pass. And still, still we are silent. Grades pass by and still. And we grow inches then feet and we grow smarter then more stubborn and still, still we are silent. Littleton? but isn't that where - yes. And we're silent. Shifting eyes and shuffling feet and stammering hands. We are silent. Conversations of friends fade as we drive by Bowles St. and Pierce Ave., the silence piercing the conversation with memories that wish they were never memories.
And years lead us to high school. To youth group at the church whose pastor was Pastor Barry, whose pastor memorialized a disquieting memory. A youth group that changed our lives and saved our lives and gave us life in a life with so little life left. And we pick up a book we've heard of all these years and we read. She Said Yes. And you read Chatfield and Simms and Wadsworth and Kipling and you know these streets you been on these streets thousands of times. These are you streets. And you learn what she believes and you know what she believes because she believes what you believe. And they asked her what she believed, what you believe. And they ask her if she wants to live. And, no I don't believe says yes, let me live. And yes I do believe says do what will. She said yes.
And we read Rachel's Tears and her Bowles is our Bowles and her Wadsworth is our Wadsworth, as is our Santa Fe and her I-70. The schools are so near and the church...the church is our church. Her youth group is our youth group. The passion for her God is our passion is her passion is our passion. And they know her passion. And they find that day. And they ask her, do you believe? Yes. They shot her in the leg. Do you believe now? Yes. They shot her in the arm. They took aim for her head and asked, do you believe? She said yes.
The retrospective gaze of a twenty-one year old, setting down the Cabernet. In memory of a memory no longer remembered. Remember eleven years thirteen can't remember, won't remember, can't remember. Remember when thirteen was overshadowed by a shadow no one wished would descend. Thirteen overshadowed by thirty-three where invention, creation, intelligence were stained black by the black shadow of black memory. Eight years almost to the day after the day we tried to forget, we could no longer forget. Memory donned the black to memorialize those taken in Blacksburg.
Remind those gone at Columbine, remember those gone at Virginia Tech. Not schools, numbers again. Thirteen, thirty-three, thirteen, thirty-three. Spiraling to forty-six, forty-six. But now, remember the killer, the schizophrenic killer the dead killer the victim killer. Yes, thirty-three, not thirty-two. Thirty-three. Halls close, memorials...You went where? Virginia Tech. Isn't that where - yes. Shifting eyes, shuffling feet, stammering hands. Thirty-three and dozens wounded.
Blacksburg, remember with me. In eleven years, only seven more, most will have forgotten April 16th, 2007. you won't have forgotten, can't have forgotten, won't have forgotten. but they won't remember as you remember. No more will your eyes shift, your feet shuffle, your hands stammer as now at each inquiry. As now you try to forget you nearly forget will forget almost forget. Raise your glass to forgetting.
We all want to forget. Raise our glasses of Cabernet to memory, that memory that is merely memory and a long off memory at that. And take only a sip of the Cabernet, to forget what we almost forget but somehow can't forget.Because of the lingering fear that again memory will be reality will be currently will be surrounding me again after all these years of forgetting. When not just thirteen, not just thirty-three - the forty-six but how many more will leave their bleeding arms and legs and chests behind, their yes's behind and rise to the sky as a white dove, too early. Too early.