Running for Dylan

Normally, this blog is a place for geekery, the occasional rant and ruminations on writing. Today I want to talk about something far more important: Running for Dylan.

Dylan Hockley was one of the 20 children and 6 educators killed in the December 14, 2012 rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School here in Newtown, Connecticut. Out of that unimaginable tragedy, Dylan’s Parents Ian Hockley and Nicole Hockley have — like many of the other families of the people who were lost that day — tried to build something good. That thing is the Dylans Wings of Change foundations and the Wingman project. Despite having suffered the worst tragedy imaginable, Ian and Nicole have decided to make the world a better place. I am grateful to know them.

In order to get the Wingman project into schools, where students are trained to be leaders and create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, they need funds. In order to help with that, I will (again) be running in the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay for them. You can read here about how Ragnar became the main fundraising vehicle of Dylan’s Wings, but suffice it to say we need your help.

So, yeah, I am asking you for money. I am asking you to donate money to Dylan’s Wings of Change through my Crowdrise campaign? I am asking you to make a small sacrifice in order to make the lives of kids — not just kids with autism, but all kids — better as they go to school.

What do you get out of it? Well, besides the warmth in the cockles of your heart, you get to make this race more fun for all my van mates! You see, what I wear on my legs will depend on how much money I raise.

I DARE you to make me do my best Gal Gadot.

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Where the Hell is Superman?

 

A deranged pilot points an passenger jet at a mountain and murders 150 people, each one waiting helplessly to die before the end comes. An army of terrorists raze villages, leaving literally thousands of men, women and children dead in their wake, all in the name of God. A hateful young man goes from classroom to classroom, gunning down six year old children in a bid to make a bigger splash on the front page than his “hero.”

We live in a world in which these things happen all to often, a world in which villainy and evil goes unchecked until it subsumes the 24 hour news cycle and fills our feeds and our walls and our streams. In this world, the one in which we live, the one to which we have been sentenced, we are left to fend for ourselves against the most hateful and vile of our own kind.

But there is another world, a world of our imagination, where someone is there for us. He is a savior and a hero and he stands for truth and justice in a never ending battle. For us. For peace and life and liberty.

In that world, he flies in at the last moment and puts all his might against the engines of that passenger jet and brings it safely to a landing in the Alps. In that world, he moves at the speed of lightning, pulling Ak-47s and machetes from the hands of Boku Haram militants and freezing them with a breath. In that world, he hears the gunfire as it blasts through the front door of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT and he is there, bullets bouncing off his chest, blazing eyes melting lead. In that world, Superman is there to save us from the worst of ourselves.

So where the hell is Superman in this world? In a universe of limitless possibility, where man can break the firmament with his scientific knowledge, where the power of the atom bends to our will and where we can hurl spacecraft millions of miles across space to land on other worlds, where is Superman? In a world that many believe allows for miracles, where angels deflect oncoming traffic and where gods provide winning lottery tickets, where is the Man of Steel when we so desperately need him?

Superman is the creation of our collective desire for hope in a hopeless world, for justice in an unjust world, for peace where sometimes it seems only war and pain and death surround us. He is the latest in a long line of fantastical heroes that embody not just might, but the truest virtues of the people that created them. Gilgamesh and Heracles and Karna and King Arthur and John Henry are all iterations of this hope.

But for all Superman’s super-strength, his super-hearing, his superiority, the true greatness of Superman is his super-humanity. Superman is not “Superman.” Nor is he “Kal-El” of Krypton. For all his godlike power and his alien origins, Superman is Clark Kent, the son of middle American farmers who cares deeply for people, who understands that his power, his ability to stop crashing airlines and half genocides and stop the senseless massacres of children do not exist as Deeds in and of themselves as the heroes of old might have viewed them. Rather, the deeds of Superman are merely reflections of a devotion to the Peace, to Justice, to the Good of All.

So where the hell is Superman? If we allow him to be, he is within each of us, he is an agnostic symbol of Hope, of Justice, of Peace and of true Goodness in a world that so desperately needs him. Superman is not real, not in the physical sense. But if we allow him to be, he can be real enough.

Wicked Wednesday: Real World Evil

My original plan, with it being October 1st (the unofficial start of Halloween season) was to produce a Wicked Wednesday based on the imagined evils of the season: ghosts, goblins, witches and the like. However, today a real evil reared its head and I feel the need to talk about it. There’s nothing in here for your D&D game, so I understand if you don’t bother reading this post, though I do think it will be of some value to some of you, anyway.

 

In the case you have never clicked my “About” page, I should tell you first that I live in Newtown, Connecticut and my children attended Sandy Hook elementary on December 14, 2012 when Adam Lanza attacked the school and killed 20 children and 6 educators, after murdering his mother in their home and before killing himself as the police arrived. If you are interested in greater detail about what happened that morning, please read the essay I wrote following the event. Suffice it to say, the day deeply affected our family. My children both survived, but my daughter lost many friends, eight of whom were Daisy Scouts in my wife’s troop. My wife was a first hand witness to the carnage and still deals with Post Traumatic Stress from the incident. Since that day, the Sandy Hook Elementary School has been moved to Chalk Hill School in neighboring Monroe, Connecticut. My son has since moved on the our Intermediate School but my daughter remains at Sandy Hook.

 

Today, I received a panicked phone call from my wife. She could hardly speak, barely breathe. The kids had dentist appointments this morning, and I knew she would be dropping the kids off at their respective schools afterward. (As an aside that I did not realize until this very moment, I had a dentist appointment on 12-14.) When she dropped off my daughter, there were police cars with their flashing lights on. She was assured she could leave my daughter at school, however, and did so with some trepidation. By the time she got home, the resurgent terror and helplessness of 12-14 had bubbled up in her beyond control. That’s how PTSD works. She called me in a full on panic attack, certain that she had made a terrible mistake. Excruciatingly, I talked her down and calmed her. A few minutes after I got off the phone, she called back, her panic returned. The school had sent out an alert: there was a threat and our daughter, who had only a little while before been safe with my wife, was at the school. My wife was both terrified and guilt stricken.

 

It was not long before we received emails and phone messages assuring us of the safety of our child. They had been evacuated. There would be an early dismissal. The threat was of minimal or no credibility. All of that was good news, but of no consequence to already traumatized parent who, like my wife and I, had stood in a parking lot on a cold winter day, holding one another against the horror that our children would not come out of that school alive. And that is where the evil comes in.

 

It is impossible to argue that someone calling in a bomb threat is as evil and monstrous as one who kills innocents. That said, the desire to inflict massive psychic trauma upon innocent people is indeed a mark of an evil and monstrous mind. Someone, somewhere (and we don’t know who yet, and perhaps never will) chose to create panic and terror among traumatized children, educators and parents today. Why? To what end? Entertainment? Revenge against some imagined slight? Perhaps it was a Sandy Hook Hoaxer or a 2nd Amendment Extremist who wanted to harm those who were seen as enemies to their world view. No matter that motivation or the identity of the individual responsible, one simple truth can be ascertained: that individual is evil, in the way the real people can be evil to one another every day.

 

If you have kids, hug them. If you don’t, do something nice for a child you do know. Maybe give a little to a PTSD charity or an organization dedicated toward understanding the roots of violence. In any case, do something to make the world a better place.

 

Oh, and if you are the person called in the threat to Sandy Hook today, go fuck yourself.

Transtemporal Psychoportation

A NOTE: I do not intend for this blog to be overly personal, but it is a place where I express myself through writing. That said, these kinds of posts will be few and far between (hopefully).

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Yesterday, I discovered the secret of both time travel and teleportation. These problems, long fodder for science fiction writers and more recently very real conundrums for physicists, would seem insurmountable for a guy with a bachelor’s degree in English literature (regardless of how many Arthur C. Clarke stories I have read) but I nonetheless learned how to traverse both time and space in the blink of an eye. What’s more, you need neither a Large Hadron Collider nor a vessel moving at Warp speed while skirting the event horizon of a Sun sized star. All you really need is helplessness and terror.

 

It happened suddenly yet nearly imperceptibly. One moment, I was on a construction site at the harbor, waiting for the contractors to call on us for survey. The next moment, I was miles away and nine months in the past, in the parking lot of Sandy Hook Elementary School waiting for my children to come out alive.

 

When the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, I suffered something of an existential crisis. Somehow between December 14 and Boston, I had managed to “forgive” the universe for being so cruel, for allowing such evil to flourish, so the bombing hit me very hard, especially the news of the death of a child. I was thrown for a loop, enraged and wounded and in shock. What I was not, though, was transported back to Sandy Hook.

 

The Washington Navy Yard was different. That event did send me hurtling through time and space. It was not just that it was a deranged gunman on a murderous rampage in what should have otherwise been a safe and secure institutional facility — though now that I think of it, i realize how alike the incidents are in that way. No, the Einstein-Rosen bridge was my brother. Just like in Sandy Hook, I was waiting to find out if my family would survive a madman’s killing spree. Technically, I knew he was safe but I could not yet believe it.

 

At about 10 that morning I received a text message from my sister in law telling myself and a number of others in a group message that my brother was okay. I know my brother travels a lot for his work as a Navy contractor (he was an officer for 20 years and recently retired) so I responded with, “Where is he?” Almost at that moment, before she could respond, it hit the top of the hour and the radio station went to the news. It said there was a mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington.

 

It is a fairly common cliche in prose to describe thoughts “falling into place.” It is an ugly and generally ill-fitting metaphor that says far more about the author’s craft than it does about the experience of the character in the narrative. yet, here I am, trying to express how the realization came upon me and all I can imagine is pieces falling into place like a slow motion, horrific game of Tetris. My brother, Navy yard. Shooter. Okay. The blocks turned and fell and when they came together they disappeared and in the void was this reality: for the second time in less than a year, a gun was pointed at my family and I was helpless to do anything but wait.

 

I called my sister in law immediately. She had been able to speak with my brother. He was in lockdown. No one knew where the shooter was, or even how many there were. He was as “safe” as long as someone did not shoot their way into his location. I offered her what comfort I could. I told her I loved her.

 

Hanging up the phone was, I think, the Big Red Button on the quad-dimensional-trans-locationator. In a blink I was in the purgatory of an uncertainty that it indescribable to anyone who has not felt it, a dread so pure it redefines you, not just then, but forever. I was acutely aware that I was surrounded by construction workers and engineers and municipal bureaucrats and that I alone was feeling this. Worse still, at least in the Sandy Hook parking lot, I was able to focus on helping my wife through her own fear and holding her up. There was no one else to hold up then, and no one to hold me up. All I had was a determination to keep my shit together, if for no other reason that the last people you want to see you cry are construction workers.

 

Relief came slowly as news trickled in and my wife held me up through my phone. I was drawn in tiny steps back to the time and place from which I had been transported as it became increasingly clear that my brother was, in fact, safe. It was a long 12 hours before he was finally home with my sister in law and I was able to speak with him, at which point the wormhole closed and I was free to live in the here and now again.