Fallout From the Fourth

He who goes forth
with a fifth on the Fourth
may not go forth on the fifth

Anti-drunk-driving PSA, as quoted in Reader’s Digest

Dearest Rachel –

No, this is not meant to be taken literally, as I’m sure you would have guessed by now (not that I have any clue how you keep track of time where you are, and if there’s any synchronization with time as we perceive it here on Earth). For all his bluster and saber-rattling (and all the things NATO and its constituent member nations seem to be doing to poke the Bear), old Vlad hasn’t run to his missiles yet, or you’d see a lot more people showing up – including me, most likely, what with Chicago being a large target full of civilians.

But it would seem that this particular Independence Day holiday has had more than its share of madness, and the caterwauling I was describing (and decrying) just yesterday was only the tip of the iceberg. It’s not the sort of expression that could be considered family-friendly, but it would be alarmingly (and depressingly) accurate to say that yesterday was one Hell of a Fourth.

Not for Daniel and me, personally, you have to understand. Indeed, I was pretty much unplugged from my news feed for the large part of the day (not entirely intentionally, to be honest, but I’m not about to complain. But those are topics for another day, especially if things grow from there), so I had no idea what was going on in the wider world. As it turned out, most of the real madness wasn’t as far removed from here as all that. Certainly not as compared to the tweet I referenced yesterday. Meanwhile, Daniel and I were thinking we chose wisely to enjoy the holiday early with Jeff and Julie and company on Sunday, especially when the clouds burst yesterday afternoon. That was certainly part of it, but there’s always more to the story.

Of course, some of it is just summer idleness in Chicago leading to the usual mayhem – and not that slick besuited fellow who does those Allstate commercials (although, by definition, he’s pretty destructive in his own right). Indeed, some might claim that for me to even mention that 57 people being shot (and nine killed) in the city isn’t even worth pointing out, particularly since last year’s Independence Day’s festivities included 100 people shot and 19 killed. What am I complaining about, this is an incredible improvement over last year! The death toll’s been cut in half! Quit your bellyaching! That’s just life in the city, amirite?

And, I suppose, that’s why it always passes with minimal comment in the news. This sort of thing always happens, every holiday (and, to a lesser extent, every summer) weekend, when there’s apparently nothing better to do than to gun someone else down, for whatever reason. It’s a rite of passage, like dissecting a frog in science class – you gotta watch someone die every now and then, like Johnny Cash did it in Reno. And this is a bigger town than Reno, so…

So these folks end up becoming nothing more than the usual statistics, like the millions in Stalin’s calculus of diminution of tragedy. And yet…

For all that happened in the city, though, that same sort of thing touched us in the suburbs this year. Not our suburb, specifically, but one near enough by (and demographically similar, in terms of both ethnicity and income level) that one would sit up and take notice. Some local kid in Highland Park picked off a bunch of folks from (as I heard it – details are still coming in, to be sure) the top of a building overlooking the parade route just as it was getting started.

And this represents the tragic side of the coin that renders the victims in Chicago mere statistics. Although, in fairness, he (and I won’t write his name, despite it being in most news reports at this point – it is necessary to know in order to find and capture him, after all, but that’s been done, and he should be given no more notoriety than that) did singlehandedly exceed half the toll of the entire city of Chicago: six dead and 26 wounded. Congratulations, bucko.

As least he’s in custody, and, while I have no idea how things work in Lake County as opposed to Cook – he’s certainly more likely to have the book thrown at him than if he were here. Or maybe not; he isn’t a member of any oppressed minority, so he wouldn’t be getting any preferential treatment here, either.

The crazy thing is, it would seem that his family are pillars of the community, with his dad having run for mayor of the town a couple years ago. There’s quite likely a series of stories behind all this, and I don’t know whether to feel for the family, who are now instantly going to be pariahs in their longtime hometown, or hold them in contempt for letting their son get so out of control; this isn’t likely the sort of thing that happens to someone overnight. If nothing else, the kid had to get his guns from somewhere.

But some things do happen overnight. And while this can’t exactly be considered ‘the lighter side’ of what happened last night, no one was killed, and there is a sort of ironic twist to the story. And hopefully, he’s insured for what happened.

This morning, after being woken up by one of my latest contacts (she was notifying me that she was flying back to D.C. after holidaying in Wisconsin – I hadn’t known she was in Wisconsin until late last night, and I’m not sure why, given her regular efforts to talk with me, she didn’t let that slip until last evening) at half-past five in the morning, I went back to sleep, only to wake up two hours later. What with Tom the Electrician coming this morning to finish up on some lighting under the cabinets, as well as completing the hookup of certain new outlets to the circuit breaker, I had to get cleaned up and ready to let him in. I was just getting out of the shower when the phone rang.

It was Tom.

Oh, dear. “Do you need me to let you in? Because I’m, ah, a bit indisposed; you’ll have to wait a moment.”

No, he wasn’t at my door. In fact, he was calling to let me know he wouldn’t be coming at all today, and wasn’t entirely sure when he would be able to in the near future. Evidently, the storms that hit us last evening hit McHenry county that much worse; his house had been hit by lightning, and damaged by fire to the point that several rooms, at least, had been rendered uninhabitable for the time being.

The ironic twist to this – and I don’t recall if I mentioned it to you – is that Tom is a volunteer firefighter for his town, which contributes to his irregular schedule with the rest of the construction team (that, and the carpentry and electrical work can tend to get in each others’ way if the teams don’t coordinate properly). I guess his colleagues got to it soon enough, but when you’re hit by lightning, the damage is done. And for all the preparation one can do to prevent fires from happening, this is one that no one sees coming, nor can they stand athwart it.

So… yeah, an eventful Fourth, for a lot of people. And I’m just now finding out about all of it myself, because Daniel and I were effectively isolating ourselves from it all for the day. Don’t know if that was a good or bad move on our part, but it is what it is.

Anyway, life goes on for the rest of us, and I’ve got to get back to things. I will catch up with you later; until then, keep an eye out for us (and everyone else out there, if you can – it would seem they need more luck than the two of us, for now).

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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