Thursday brought with it an intense situation. While driving my mother and I to see my Grandmother at the nursing home, we were stopped by the area SWAT team. Since my father is a retired police officer from the area, we knew most of them. They briefly informed us that a stand off was taking place. A man had a high powered rifle and was shooting it in town. The stand off took nearly two hours and resulted in the man’s arrest. Now, for the type of situation this was, it was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it was quite text book. Only it happened in a very small town.
Everybody is famous in a small town
Thanks to social media and the evening news the incident was broadcast to practically everyone the moment it happened. Reporters flooded the area. Facebook and twitter lit up. Everybody had something to say:
“Local school goes into lockdown, Shooter on the loose”,
“Shooter and police in intense stand off”,
“[…]local law enforcement, and the SWAT team that just traipsed through my backyard and are now using my backdoor neighbor’s house for cover.”
“I just hope it’s not the neighbor I’m picturing, but sadly wouldn’t be surprised if it was. […] whomever is causing all the ruckus is clearly just off his rocker right now. I hope it all goes down without even him being hurt, let alone anyone else.”
“Police arrest man after standoff”
I really couldn’t blame anyone for hype it got. In a place where cow tipping normally makes headline news, and public shame is having your speeding ticket published in newspaper, a standoff is quite a big deal.
Now, I might have left the story there and told you all how crazy things can happen when your sailor isn’t around, but that isn’t the moral of this story. Although, it certainly could have been. The moral of this story lies in what happened after.
Throughout the afternoon and evening everyone followed the story. A person I consider a friend did as well. In fact, she was thicker into the action than my mother and I. She lived a few doors down from where the incident took place. It was from her Facebook feed that this moral takes place.
As is customary during this time of year, people list off daily what they are thankful for. She posted that she was thankful for local law enforcement, and the SWAT team who was at that moment traipsing through her back yard. Which translated into everyone being thankful for local law enforcement and the SWAT team, as well as everyone wanting to know what was going on. Like any normal human being, she supplied just enough detail to peak everyone’s interest. Shooter off his rocker. SWAT team in the back yard. Hoping it’s not the neighbor she is picturing, but knowing that it most likely is. Shots were fired. Bomb squad was called. Every town has a loon and in a small town you know who the loon is. …
Sadly, that statement is true. In a small town you do know who is stable and who isn’t. Unfortunately, the loon in this incident was a former vietnam vet. Let me tell you about him.
This vet was an upstanding citizen of our community. He very much was involved in everything he could get his hands on. He often stopped into my father’s business and could persuade him away from his work for a cup of joe or lunch. He was quick to lend a hand when asked. Normally he was charitable and cheery. He was active in the VFW and the American Legion.
Every year this man would accept invitations to to talk to students about what he faced while in Vietnam. He was our real life text book. He told stories about his time in the service. He openly and honestly answered every question. Even the uncomfortable ones.
He was very active and involved. And then he wasn’t. After his son committed suicide a few years ago, he was never the same. It was as if his son was the glue that kept him sane and made the nightmares go away. Every year around Thanksgiving he had a particularly tough time. This year, he snapped. He took a high powered rifle out side his house and took a few shots. The rest as they say is history.
Me and the neighbor.
I didn’t find out who the shooter was until the 5pm news. I was busy. But looking back on the posts that were put up I couldn’t help but feel defeated. The wacko/ the loon, was a man I highly respected. So I crafted a note to my friend the neighbor backfilling her in on a little information. Perhaps she didn’t know him like the rest of us did. After all she was a transplant to this small town. Instead I was chided. I was told by the neighbor that she knew the vet and his story and she was “trying to retain some anonymity for our community and [our] neighbors, even those that are landing us in the news” and that the vet “remained anonymous to [her] readers, as did most the story.”
Yet, that was not what she did. Her words and her actions didn’t match. Instead, forever it is encapsulated to all those around her that he was loony vet who went postal one day around Thanksgiving…and that I can not accept.