It’s Only the Beginning: After the Tragedy

My condolences to the families and friends of those killed and injured at Kirkwood City Hall. The sorrow of the community extends far beyond its city limits.As the victims are laid to rest, it’s time to get back to business at city hall.

The blood stains were barely dry, when a new coat of paint was applied to the walls and the news media stopped by to see the progress just two days after the horrible massacre. “Let the healing begin.”

But the paint can’t cover up the pain.

Those who knew the dead and injured are moving from shock, disbelief, sorrow, grief. Probably back and forth between all of these emotions.

The City Hall was closed completely for a couple of days and will close during the hours of the funerals. Immediate court dates are being cancelled according to its website. City business stopped for a brief moment but is slowly approaching normal schedules.

A little further down the city’s home page, there’s information on preparing for a disaster. Above that it reads “Shop Kirkwood First.”

What does the future hold?

Post-traumatic stress. In the months to come, if the past repeats itself, one by one some city employees will move on. Retire earlier than expected, find another job. Just quit. Anything to get away from that awful place. That awful reminder. It doesn’t matter if the person witnessed the actual event or not. That building will be haunted forever. A spooky place in the minds of some. Like the walls are talking, although in a voice muted by the new paint.

Generations of families feel pride in the Kirkwood City Hall building that symbolizes their hometown. The repercussion of this horrible even will be more complicated than your run-of-the-mill workplace massacre.

Kirkwood residents feel a stronger, deeper connection to their government building than most people feel to your average fast-food restaurant. Just tear down the McDonald’s and put up a new one. “Going postal,” was coined to describe anger that erupts into such unspeakable violence. It’s not that simple here. While some people will be strangely drawn to the city hall ….even folks from outside the community….others will avoid it.

Some citizens will move on to other places. Out of town. Get away. “Well, they weren’t really from Kirkwood anyway.”

Lawsuits. Yes, there will be lawsuits. The smell of money will attract them. The whiff of justice.

The aroma of fresh paint may have come too soon. There may be allegations that the crime scene should not have been disturbed so quickly. There will be charges that the city did not adequately protect the public. “The procedures were inadequate given the fact that restraining orders had been filed against this man.” The attorneys will use far more words to make this point in court.

“Nobody’s going to sue the city. They love Kirkwood!”

Yea, but we miss our loved ones. Spouses, parents, siblings. There will be medical bills not covered by insurance. Loss of income. Loss of affection. People who didn’t die can’t sleep, cope, work, function. Whatever it is, the lawyers will make their case in court. Or settle with the insurance company.

Those who witnessed the event up close will experience “survivor’s guilt.”

More headaches. More sorrow. More pain.

Other mayors and city managers across the country are already examining their own procedures. Worrying about that annoying citizen in their town. Could he do something like this? This didn’t just happen to Kirkwood. This is national news. National sadness. National shock.

Life goes on. People will grieve. The spring will come. The Festival of Food and Flowers, Shopping at the Farmer’s Market. There will be outdoor concerts, swimming and hockey at the Rec Center, the 4th of July, the Greentree Festival, The Holiday Walk.

Movies? Book deals? Visits by national media such as “48 Hours” examining the story in detail? Don’t bet against it. Our society is fascinated by tragedy. There is so much material to work with here – they won’t be able to resist.

Time will pass. The names of the slain will be forever remembered in local history and folklore not so much for what they did…but what was done to them. Life will go on. There will be other news events. Other horrible events. The seasons will change. Families will grow. Time marches on. Kirkwood will survive. But it just doesn’t feel the same.

2 Responses to “It’s Only the Beginning: After the Tragedy”

  1. GibGrl

    Lots of good points but what also sucks about these things is we remember more the shooter not the shootees. Think: Dennis Klebold (spelling) !! Who did he shoot? I have no idea. Whats Columbine doing these days? Have they changed their gun laws, put in metal detectors, become more vigilant with monitoring websites threatening massacres? OH and now I hear our vernacular has changed: people are saying ” better watch it or I’ll go Cookie” ; or “I’ll do a Cookie”. Ruined the connotation of my favorite snack. Going Cookie = going Postal. Man I feel for those who loved Cookie and the first Postal worker that cracked. There are victims everywhere even the language. It’s sad.

  2. intuitivelyobvious

    Yea, I don’t mind them picking on the post office…but leave our cookies, cakes, candy and chocolate alone!

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