The fire truck’s siren sounded different as it blew past me on Bestgate Road. There was desperation to it, a wildness in the truck’s path. We were maybe ½ a mile from 888 Bestgate Road.
Five people—Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, and Gerald Fischman—had been shot dead a few minutes earlier.
My wife was another ½ mile away in Anne Arundel Medical Center for a pregnancy checkup. We were on the phone with each other three times within ten minutes. When you’re wife sends you this pic it sets off a nerve.
I didn’t realize what had happened until I looked at the toxic swamp known as Twitter. I’d try to explain this feeling—this numbness that spreads over you in a moment of disbelief when you realize that someone you know may not be around any longer—but I can’t.
I immediately thought of Rick Hutzell. More importantly, his wife and kids. I met Rick and his family a decade earlier at the North County Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas party. It’s a small community chamber. The key word there is community. Several years later we were making fun of the picture I submitted as part of an Op-ed. He’s a good guy. He made it.
Less than 48 hours earlier I was in the parking lot of Severna Park Elementary talking to Rachael Pacella about local school board elections. I hadn’t met Rachel until that time, but she was diligent about doing her job. Very diligent. About a school board election. We’re not talking about a glamorous position, but it was important enough for her to cover a community topic. Rachael’s expected to make a full recovery after being shot.
The Capital-Gazette is not MSNBC. It is not Fox News. It is not CNN. It’s not even our local network affiliates. Unlike those big outfits where reporters try to sell books and intoxicate themselves on live TV during New Years’ Eve, The Capital-Gazette is your traditional hometown newspaper. It is a bastion—an icon—in Anne Arundel County.
While other hometown newspaper wilt away on the vine, The Capital-Gazette carries on. The people who work there are our friends, neighbors, and, to some, family members. You don’t find much in terms of journalism these days. You do at The Capital-Gazette.
Letters to the Editor are sometimes a topic of discussion at Cookie’s Kitchen in Pasadena. Our high school teams are celebrated in the first pages of the sports section. You won’t find any mention of LeBron. Our local college is the Naval Academy. They get plenty of coverage. You can also find lunchmeat special listed for non-chain grocery stores.
After processing it all, I turned on Fox News to hear Juan Williams ask a question about if this could be prevented with gun control. I immediately switched to music.
Some of my friends lost other friends. As my friend and local author Ronald Malfi explains in his Facebook post
My friend died today. She was murdered along with four other people while at work. A guy named Jarrod Warren Ramos entered her office building with a shotgun and did his thing. I spent hours worrying if my friend, Wendi Winters, a reporter for the Capital Gazette, was okay. And I realized that even if she was, there were still five people dead, and there were people out there just like me hoping that they were okay, too.
The shores of the Chesapeake Bay may be a little darker. Politicians will get their names in the paper. Wives, children, brothers and sisters will put their loved ones to rest. There will be plenty of questions but few answers.
You can review his defamation suits. You can analyze his prior death threats. You can attempt to bring politics into the mix. Simply put, there is no explaining the actions of a madman.