Most weeks I follow the nightly news fairly closely. The last few weeks have been an exception, since I was traveling over the holiday. And this week I haven't followed too closely, as I've been catching up from being away for nineteen days as well making preparations for the upcoming end-of-year holidays. Like most Americans, I heard about the horrible mass shooting in San Bernardino on Wednesday. On Thursday, I skipped watching the evening news since it appeared the entire broadcast was still covering that story. And then this morning, my dear friend Andy sent me an e-mail.
One of the people killed in Wednesday's massacre was someone I knew.
I guess I didn't recognize the name because he was reported as "Harry Bowman," whereas I knew him as "Hal." If I recall correctly, Hal was my prom date in 1984. I don't remember now how many people I asked before I got a "yes." Five? Seven? Hal was a freshman and I was a senior way outside most of the social circles. Since prom is a milestone, I thought it important to attend, even though I had never attended a school dance. Andy's original date was also from the speech and debate team, I think, but she broke a bone and had to cancel. Andy did find a back-up date on short notice, but our original plan -- a double date amongst friends -- collapsed. I remember the night being short; and I remember Hal's sister liking my dress choice. And I think I remember his mom being nice and taking pictures.
There are people we don't think about much. They were part of a chapter in our lives that was so far back, it is in a different volume. They may be ancillary characters to our own narratives, but we like to think that their lives went on, and good things happened, and life was happy. It is so very sad and shocking when it does not. My deepest condolences to Hal's family, and especially to his two daughters. I grew up missing a parent. I know that through the remaining milestones of their lives -- graduations, weddings, births -- there will always be a hole where that missing man should be; there will always be a touch of bitter when the occasion should be sweet.