On Friday, May 20, 1988, a very disturbed woman named Laurie Dann went on a rampage which included shooting an eight-year-old boy to death in a Chicago suburban elementary school.
On Wednesday, December 21, 1988, a bomb explosion on a Pan Am Flight from London Heathrow Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport killed everyone abroad and several people on the ground in Scotland as well.
On Sunday, May 22, 2011, a massive tornado set itself down and parked over Joplin, MO, killing people and destroying property beyond historic Missouri records.
Except for the human tragedies, these events have little to do with each other.
Unless you happen to be me.
On the day Laurie Dann shot and killed a second-grader at a Chicago north shore school, I HAD a second-grader at a Chicago north shore school. The Pan Am flight that was taken down was the same flight my husband's daughter took from London to Chicago just a couple of days before. And sixteen relatives of mine live in five households in Joplin, MO.
In each of these events, my beloveds were potentially in harms' way. And in each case, my own were spared while others were not. Each time, my attention was consumed for some time by the awareness of what others were suffering. My joy at 'dodging the bullet' was restrained by something like 'survivor guilt' -- pain for those who took the hit.
Human life is an admixture of luck and accomplishment, failure and crises and plenty of day-to-day routine. The big events, extreme events, for better or worse, sometimes are humanly caused and sometimes beyond human control. But the victims are generally innocent, so whether a crazy woman shoots a child or a crazy storm takes someone's brother or sister and their homes, we know: who is taken and who survives is utterly random.
I believe that.
I don't think I've been spared the crushing pain of losing my beloveds for any reason or because of any plan. I believe it is random.
But I also believe it is a reminder to all of us to live as fully as possible, to love every day of our lives – to love the people we care for and the lives we are blessed to live.