Wineskins Archive

February 4, 2014

The Day Innoncence Died (Sep-Oct 1999)

Filed under: — @ 6:50 pm and

by Paul Talley
September – October, 1999

The limits of my soul have been tested. My soul is haunted with their pain – parents, brothers, sisters, and friends. All have shed tears.

I sit, and I watch tears fall for five hours. No doubt I see only a fraction of the tears shed that day. Somehow God led me to this place of death. I watch as parents look frantically at the list of the living. And I watch as their hearts sink to find their child’s name absent from that list.

I listen to the pain of regret. From friends’ and parents’ hearts, the irrational guilt flows. How can I comfrot? How can I help? Confused, I wander from parent to parent, room to room. What words would I have? What connection could I find?

My name tag says “Youth Minister,” my face says “youth.” My age cannot be hidden. What could I give? I stand as a gap between parent and child. I am in a no-man’s land, searching to heal. Her face is so vivid, her pain so real. I see her regret – taste her anguish. From a distance I watch her son try to comfort her, but his arms only offer stiffness and confusion. His face is twisted, puzzled. Struggling to help, I say all that would come to my mind. “Can I sit next to you?” His nod is silent. After a long pause I ask, “Who are you waiting on?”

“My sister, Lauren,” he replied.

“Can I pray for her?”

“Yes,” he nodded. So I do.

In others I see silent strength. A father holds his head high. There is a confidence about him. He has a quiet understanding and wisdom.

As I look into faces, I see souls. It looks as if hearts have been ripped from their places leaving bottomless voids, full of emptiness. Inside myself I yell to God, “Help me! Give me words! Teach me.” But even God is silent. He is mourning the evil in the world.

In others I see bright glances of hope. They carry on with sunshine in their hearts and goodness on their minds. They are true servants – helping where they can, passing out drinks, getting blankets for the cold. They are helpful rays of light, placing to rest physical needs of the afflicated. Still others seek to protect. Standing with their backs straight, heads raised high, their blue uniforms give us comfort. But their eyes cannot lie. Inside the pressed pants and leather belts stand saddened men and women. Their eyes reflect the horror they have witnessed.

Outside are the vultures, circling about, waiting. They hide behind cameras and lenses, but their mission is clear. Information is what they seek. Standing between them and the families is a covered walkway into the school. A no-man’s land between the pain and the fantasies.

Just inside the door is a list. A Schindler’s list of survivors, and a great tragedy of pain. Behind the cursive lines of signature there is sorrow. Pain comes to those whose names are not present. The lists are hurriedly placed on a bulletin board filled with pictures and announcements of happier days when children played safely. A day before innocence died. A day before the pain.

Down the hall is a great gathering of families and friends; a collective silence murmurs through the room. Unasked questions float to the rafters like prayers. There is wailing, and mourning, as hearts separated from people’s souls. Numbness. The basketball goals, chairs and space once used to uplift kids through play and folly, are now used to prop up wounded spirits and bruised hearts. Death enters the room with the Coroner. Her clinical call for loved ones’ identities cuts us like razors. We sit numb, watching the world go on without us.

But God is there. Silently holding our chins in the palm of his hand. Angels attend us. Throughout the room silent prayers lift to the heavens. As angels bow down, and God is silent, we feel power. A greater love, feeling a greater pain. The war rages on; we are but casualties. Left in this world, but not forgotten. Grace, peace, and love are with us. Through his chosen ones, his will prevailed. I was numb, I was confused, and I was silent. But God used me. An instrument of his great love; a tool set on this earth to do his will. I do not understand it; I cannot chart it; but I see it. My mind will never forget the pain, but my heart will never forget the love of a Son who died on the cross, and the day I finally understood it – in Littleton, Colorado, April 20, 1999.Wineskins Magazine

Online editor’s note: On April 20, 1999, in the small, suburban town of Littleton, Colorado, two high-school seniors, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, enacted an all-out assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day. The boys’ plan was to kill hundreds of their peers. With guns, knives, and a multitude of bombs, the two boys walked the hallways and killed. When the day was done, twelve students, one teacher, and the two murderers were dead.

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