On November 22, 1963, I learned that I react to this level of drama and chaos and violence by going into an almost altered state of deep calm and clarity. I learned this on the bus home from school when we were dismissed early because the President had been shot. I learned this as the sustained screams of the other children on the bus reached a deafeningly high pitch—almost like celebration, but really a reaction to grief that was beyond their bodies’ capability to contain. My best friend, Roxy, told me about the assassination. We were in the seventh grade; someone had just come to tell our teacher, who released us out into the halls, which is where the screaming began. When Roxy told me—yelled it actually, to be heard above the shrieks—I felt a sadness as deep as the calm I went into. “One big tear rolled down your face,” she told me a few days later, trying to understand. I couldn’t explain. I couldn’t talk. But I felt a deep, clear calm and I knew life as we’d all known it had changed forever.
I’m feeling something similar now, and as an adult I would like to at least try to articulate it. I read a New York Times editorial yesterday called Don’t Jump to Conclusions about the Killer by Dave Cullen. The piece suggested that if his research into the Columbine massacre killers’ backgrounds had anything to teach, it’s that the killer’s actions probably had little to do with revenge or a response to bullying. Instead, it probably has to do with that moment when a clinically depressed person who relentlessly hates himself finally disconnects from himself. He can no longer contain the pain and he becomes unreal to himself. And therefore everyone and everything else becomes equally unreal. His self-directed anger ceases to have an effect on his unreal self, so it turns outward, and craving a release, it acts. Read More