You never think it's going to happen to you or your community, but yesterday Madison, AL joined the fraternity of communities touched by the tragedy of school gun violence when a 14-year old boy was shot and killed in the hallway of Discovery Middle School.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to write about this and as I considered the possibility, I was pretty sure I'd need to take a one-day break from my miniseries of 2010 Blues Music Award nominees. While I'll certainly be focusing on things much larger than who wins an award, I can't think of a time that cries out for the blues more than something like this.
Ronnie Earl is one of the great guitarists of our time and is nominated for two BMAs this year. I'm pretty sure he had something else in mind when he composed "Recovery Blues" but having learned a little about his life and struggles, I have a feeling he won't mind us trying to find solace and comfort in the songs he wrote for Living In The Light.
The beauty of this composition and its appropriateness for this moment come in the way his lead guitar weeps and the way the organ proclaims a presence of healing.
When I first learned of the shooting, my thoughts immediately turned to my niece and nephew, both middle school students in Madison. I'm embarrassed to admit I thought they both went to Discovery. It turns out they attend one of the other middle schools in Madison. Still, for a few fleeting moments I had a profound anxiety attack. The odds were remote that either of them were hurt, but then the odds of something like this happening in our backyard were supposed to be remote and at that moment they were feeling anything but.
I suppose it's a sad commentary when a child can be gunned down in a school and the major news networks don't stop everything to give it wall-to-wall coverage. I wasn't really hoping that Anderson Cooper, Geraldo Rivera, and the rest of the tragedy mongers and hangers-on would descend upon our community and hover over us, but I'm afraid it's not a good sign that a single teenager isn't a high enough body count.
The agony of this unspeakable, incomprehensible sorrow is too fresh for those most deeply affected by it to begin thinking of recovery. For some time to come, they'll be submerged in blues with occasional breaths of recover. Their path will be long and filled with questions that will never be answered and their souls will bear wounds that won't fully heal. It's a journey no one ever wants to take and one you pray you never have to and you feel like the world's biggest creep that some part of you is thankful when it doesn't.
It will be up to the rest of us to join with them in prayer, thought, and deed to lift them up and carry them as the deepest blues imaginable dominate their waking and sleeping moments, and begin the work that leads towards recovery whether that is an elusive destination ultimately reached or a never ending journey.