Time and tragedy

11 Mar

It has been a strange, often difficult week. Work was kind of crazy, for starters. Then on Tuesday, as craziness was unfurling all around me at work, there was news of gunshots at Episcopal, a local private school. One of my co-workers has a son who is enrolled there. He ran out the door and raced to the school.

Before there was a school there, the campus at Episcopal was a day camp. I attended camp there one summer when I was 7 years old. One of my cousins graduated from the school. I happened to know the head of the school because I took a couple of English classes from her when she taught at Englewood.

Some co-workers and I paused in the break room at work to watch the big screen TV. Local news people were scrambling to cover the story when they really had little detail to run with.

There was a male reporter on the scene–or as close to the scene as the police would allow. He actually tried to flag down a car, obviously driven by a frantic parent trying to get to the school. The car nearly hit him and kept going. My sentiments were with the driver.

Then this reporter located parents who were parked, sitting in their cars waiting for the police to grant them access to the campus. He ran up to their cars, shoving a microphone at the driver’s window. Most people ignored him.

“Oh, they don’t want to talk to us,” he said.

There is no “us”, bub–they don’t want to talk to you!

When he did find people who would talk to him, all they could say was, “I’m scared. I’m worried.”

At one point the police made the reporters relocate to the corner where the road into the school intersects with a major road called Atlantic Boulevard. It is a real boulevard–it runs from the 95 exit from downtown Jacksonville to the Atlantic Ocean.

This silly reporter man was dancing in the street, spinning around, no doubt trying to think of something to say, even though he didn’t know much more than he did before he went on the air.

“Here I am at what I believe to be Atlantic Boulevard,” he said. As if the existence of Atlantic Boulevard is a matter of faith.

Then they cut back to the anchor woman in the studio. She talked to another reporter who was on the telephone from somewhere on the campus. We learned that the police had confirmed that two people were dead. They also confirmed that no students were hurt.

The anchor woman then began to babble about students inside of the school sending text messages to their parents. “Wanting them to know, ‘we’re cool’ as they say in their lingo.”

Seriously, these TV people should not be allowed on the air without a script.

I was then drawn into a work related meeting (as I was, after all, at work) and when I emerged, I clicked on the local news site and found out that the headmaster of Episcopal, my high school English teacher, Dale Regan, had been murdered. Her assailant was a recently dismissed teacher who came on campus with an AK-47 and 100 rounds of ammunition. He shot Mrs. Regan several times, then turned the gun on himself.

School shootings are always scary, terrible news, If I had not known Mrs. Regan, this news, which shook our community to the core, would have still been upsetting. But having known Dale Regan, and having personally known what a dedicated educator she was, I felt this loss all the more intensely.

Mrs. Regan is the teacher who convinced me to learn to type. She told us if we intended to go to college, we would either have to know how to type or we’d have to pay someone to type our papers for us. When she was a college student, she made money typing other student’s papers.

I took Mrs. Regan’s advice. I took a typing class over the summer. I was never a good enough typist to charge for my work, but at least I never had to pay anyone to type my papers for me.

That was back in the day when typing was done on a typewriter. When Mrs. Regan offered that sage advice, none of us imagined PCs and keyboarding–much less the Internet.

I thought about that as I watched Dale Regan’s memorial service being live streamed from the campus of Episcopal on Friday. I was at my desk at work, but I could still participate in the memorial. There were people entering comments while the service was on. People were watching from as far away at Vietnam. Mrs. Regan touched so many lives in her thirty plus years of being an educator, they were tuning in from all over the planet.

What an amazing tribute. It shows the kind of legacy one dedicated teacher can create.

One of my high school friends happened to be at Episcopal on the day before the tragedy. Someone asked her if she wanted to go speak to Mrs. Regan. She said, no, that she’d speak to her the next time she was there.

High school seems like a lifetime ago. Yet, the passage of 36 years (yes, I’m old!) seems to have happened in the twinkling of an eye.  Here today. Gone tomorrow. So much has changed. So much has happened. So easy to lose perspective. Then something happens that  brings you squarely back to Earth.

3 Responses to “Time and tragedy”

  1. Pamela N Red March 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    I can’t imagine being so angry with the world or people that I’d bring a gun and just start shooting. Maybe it’s a male thing and you have to have testosterone for that to make sense.

    I’m sorry for your loss. It’s a shame to lose such a great teacher and person.

  2. Marian Griffin March 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Mrs. Regan sounds amazing. Sounds like she gave with her heart to her students and will be remembered for years to come despite how the years that may have passed and will pass. She will forever be honored by you and others who she touched.

    Beautiful blog…

    • Mike March 11, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

      I too am sorry for your loss. Mrs. Regan sounds amazingly like a couple of my teachers in high school. You are so very right – we go along on our merry way and events like this bring back wonderful memories and stab us with hurt to remind us it truly is a short journey. Tomorrow is guaranteed to none. Terffic blog – thank you.

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