As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport. King Lear, Act IV
There are certain days that everyone will always remember. People of my generation uniformly remember where they were and what they were doing the day that John F. Kennedy was shot. My children’s generation will never forget 9-11. For my parent’s generation, images of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were burned into their brains. But these were all public moments—John John’s salute, the mushroom clouds, the fall of the twin towers. Amongst these more public iconic moments are the quiet ones, the ones that hit each of us hard individually. For me, I think of the Challenger disaster, played out on the television screen in the waiting room of my department. I tried to go on seeing patients as Christa McAuliffe, the first Teacher in Space, and her crewmates exploded before our eyes. I had wanted to teach, and had dreamed of being an astronaut while growing up in Houston. They were there, and then suddenly, they were gone. The bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City was another of those moments—for me, that firefighter will be carrying that baby out of the carnage forever. Thirteen years after it happened, I dragged my youngest son to Oklahoma City to visit the museum, and to sit and contemplate one of the loveliest and saddest public memorial spaces ever built.
Today was another of those days for me as I tried to keep my patient flow going and stay on time while watching the Connecticut school shooting play out on my computer. I can read the eyewitness accounts, and I can put my thoughts on paper, but it is the images, the pictures that will forever haunt me—the teachers and SWAT team members leading the frightened children, eyes and mouths open in terror, from a school which will never be the same out into a town that will likely never be able to celebrate Christmas again. Where is the soul of a human being who can fire point blank into the heart of a child? I asked my friend, who is a devout Catholic, “Where is God while all of this was going on?” She did not have an answer which I could believe or understand. It rained a cold wet rain all day, here in this city where it never rains.
As I was driving home tonight I got a call from Daniel, my farrier. Daniel never calls me at 7 pm on a Friday night, so I knew something was wrong. He said, “Come home quickly, Gabriel called– Dash is colicking.” Dash is my 27 year old Quarter Horse, recently laid up and on antibiotics for lymphangitis, an infection in his legs brought on by a late season of heat and drought which triggered a swarm of blood seeking flies. Colic in an elderly horse who has never colicked before can be a bad sign—a stone perhaps, or a lipoma twisting the gut. John, my horse vet for twenty years, got here quickly, sedated and tubed the old boy who is now resting comfortably. I will be on horse watch for the rest of the night, armed with syringes full of painkillers and sedatives. I know one thing for certain—this old horse has had a full, long and happy life—something those children who died today will never have. It is almost midnight here. Can this day be over soon?