In the late afternoon of Monday, March 22nd, just after I heard about the assault rifle massacre of 10 people in the Table Mesa King Soopers supermarket in South Boulder, Colorado…I initiated this text exchange with our eldest son, Gregg, and his wife Heather (they live in Boulder, along with their 6-year-old daughter) :

Me: I trust you guys were NOT at the Table Mesa King Soopers today! RSVP please…

Heather: We are OK! And all those we know are OK, but this is %&$#*%#*& !!!

Gregg: Quite a scary scene down there at your favorite South Boulder “coffee joint”

Me: True !! …just glad that y’all are safe!

The reason I chose to send a somewhat deliberate text message rather than a more frantic and immediate phone call is the fact that last summer they sold their South Boulder home during a huge seller’s market in Colorado, and especially in very attractive towns like Boulder. During the early months of Covid-19, buyers (who could afford it), were escaping states like California and Texas to rush to the seemingly safer lifestyle of the “Front Range” cities and towns of The Colorado Rockies.

They now live in North Boulder…and about 5 miles away from the Table Mesa King Soopers’ market. I knew that the chances of them doing any grocery shopping at Table Mesa was now quite remote. But still, one, two, or all three of them could have been picking something up for dinner that afternoon if they were in they area. There is a very well-known mountaineering center a hundred yards away from the King Soopers that is a magnet for outdoor-oriented Boulderites from all over the city.

My son’s reference to my “favorite South Boulder coffee joint” is spot on. It now provides daily images in my mind on a daily basis since that horrific afternoon. They conjure up memories of the fine workers in that market, and some of their frequent early morning customers. And it relates to the fact that I am certainly a “morning person”…and a very early riser.

You see, for the past five years that they lived in that house less than a mile from that beloved neighborhood supermarket that is now a focal point in the national news, we would divide our time between their house, and that of our younger son Chris, and his family in nearby Golden, just 13 miles south of Boulder. So, at least a half dozen days of each of our one or two trips west annually to see both families, were spent in South Boulder. At some point, five years ago, I developed an early morning ritual of getting up early and quietly leaving the home and walking that mile, most often in the waning hour of darkness, to the Starbucks coffee shop in the front-center of that nearby King Soopers. There was a couple of additional elements beyond the popular shop’s signature coffee that got me there every morning. One was the early delivery of the day’s Denver Post to the store’s newspaper racks. I am a regular consumer of unbiased, properly reported and vetted, not-fake news. The venerable Post delivers well within that definition. However, the best part of the morning was just after the sun started peeking over the eastern prairies beyond the distant skyline of Denver!

That was when the upper reaches of Boulder’s “Flatiron” rock formations to the west of this college town began to glow, thus heralding the new day…almost every day. That glow varied some days with occasional thin clouds…though the reliably cloudless skies of the Front Range guaranteed an almost daily glow of varying oranges and reds from the rock spires as the direct sunshine crept all the way down to the rocky flatiron bases.

I always had a front row seat for this morning show of nature’s wonder from a window table in the Starbucks cafe at the front of the Table Mesa King Soopers (see photo). However now those colorful morning memories are tainted by a much more ominous, and dark, event….and it is heartbreaking, and feeds anew my anger at our country’s inaction insofar as preventing most of these atrocities that are becoming increasingly commonplace. Though the violent loss of any loved one’s life at the hands of a deranged and/or angry person with a semi-automatic assault weapon that almost assures another news-making site of multiple deaths and injuries…is anything but commonplace for those families.

The beautiful “flatirons” rock formations to the immediate west of South Boulder, Colorado as I viewed them from my favorite early morning window table viewpoint in the Table Mesa King Soopers’ Starbucks Cafe

The major impact on the growing list of families and communities affected by this craziness is demonstrated by the equally growing list of heartfelt memorials constructed to help with the grief and to honor those who have been lost. The one that I, and I think most of us, will never forget is the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado back on April 20th of 1999. Twelve students and one teacher were senselessly lost that day, a day that seems to have heralded the start of mass shootings frequency in this country. Certainly there has been an increased volume of these atrocities in the following 21st century.

…..Lost also are the names of the other thousands of Americans whose lives disappear annually as a result of gun violence, whose end came equally violently, yet did not come as part of an event with four or more lives lost…the minimum number to qualify for a “mass murder’ definition that we hear about, or read about, in our daily papers and on the evening network news.

While consulting with Colorado’s largest energy utility in 2011-2013, and living in nearby Lakewood, I visited the expansive public park in Littleton one afternoon where the beautiful, yet heartbreaking, memorial to those lost is located (see photo). It is replete with quotations by and about, those lost. There is a brief biography of each on panels that will last forever in granite, as well as in the minds of their families and friends.

The Columbine High School Massacre memorial in Littleton, Colorado from the high point of the memorial grounds. The rooftop of Columbine High School can be seen just two hundred yards from the photo’s right edge.

There is a wheelchair-accessible paved path that wraps around the memorial with its long, gentle slope ending at a high point (where I took the picture) with a stone bench and a sweeping view to the west of the Rocky Mountains, and a memory-evoking view to the south, just off of the picture’s right edge, of Columbine High School a couple hundred yards away. The effect of this memorial on its visitors is equally sweeping. The beauty of the natural world, and the memory of that tragedy and all those that have followed in the 21st century. The effect of that memorial is sure to also feed the impatience of the many, like my own, with the lawmakers who could take effective action…but just enough of them chose not to!

The skilled and self-serving lobbyists, led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), an originally fine organization that was set up for hunting enthusiasts and their veneration of firearms designed for those who hunt wild animals for sport, or knock down a series of clay pigeons for trophies, just as our forefathers hunted to put food on their tables and those of their fellow colonists. The well-compensated leaders of the NRA have also convinced tens of thousands of dues-paying members that opposition to any form of sensible management of personal firearms and their ownership, no matter the rapidity of the firepower inherent of those devices, must be preserved at all costs, otherwise every personal firearm in the country will ultimately be gathered up and locked into a giant closet somewhere.

Note that the weapons currently in question were/are developed for the personal arming of today’s military where a dozen shots in a dozen seconds might make sense in some circumstances. Hiding behind preservation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution really is a gross aberration of an amendment that was useful and sensible three hundred years ago, but not today.

This is an amendment that was written at a time when the colonists were beginning to turn their hunting rifles into the dual role of also protecting our young country and its citizenry from the truly oppressive behavior of the occupying British government and their troops. It made sense then, yet makes little sense now, as espoused by the well-funded lobbyists courting our law-making representatives and senators in Washington.

Some would suggest that the discussion of a serious topic like this has no place in an idyllic, rural corner of Maine such as ours. I very seriously beg to differ. It is a discussion that is appropriate for every urban, suburban, and rural corner of America. And each of us can have as much impact on the deliberations of the U.S. Congress as any other individual American.

Make a call, and leave a message if Senator Collins, Senator King, or Representative Golden happen to be away from their phone, send an email, or better yet, hand-write (to preserve a dying, yet valuable, form of sincere communication) and weigh in on this very human of issues confronting our country in this young century. Just go to usa.gov/elected-officials for all your “let ‘em know what you think” communication needs. Then get back to your very satisfying endeavors here in the remote, yet idyllic, Rangeley Lakes Region! Remember, “Ice-Out” is just around the corner!

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.
Garrison Keillor

Respect Science, Respect Nature,
Respect Each Other, and Respect the Truth

Per usual, your thoughts and comments are more than welcome. Just launch an email towards [email protected] Thank you, in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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