(Welcome home William. Welcome. Home.)
We are now embarking on a new “feature” that we hope to continue each Monday for the remainder of 2023. We are calling it “McLean’s Monday Musings & Muck Pit.”
It’s some of our thoughts and reflections about what has happened in the horse world over the past weekend, and, perhaps over the past week. Some are good thoughts. Some may be afterthoughts. Some may call them our “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” thoughts. And, yes, some will be our figurative “pitch fork tosses” into the proverbial “Muck Pit.”
So, without further adieu, here’s our inaugural pitch (and some fork):
Monday’s Musings Turns into Wednesday Wisps:
We were all prepared to publish our weekly commentary on our customary Monday earlier this week when something else dominated our minds and our time. Unfortunately.
While at dinner Monday night, my beautiful wife, Leigh, and I got word that there was a shooting reported at Michigan State University. Soon, the news came in there had been a fatality. And, then the crippling news worsened. There had been multiple fatalities.
Our stomachs turned upside down. Our minds churned out the worst thoughts possible. Our lives stumbled over us like a boulder on a stampede.
You see, our son, William, is a freshman at Michigan State University, and, suddenly, we could not reach him on his cell phone to alert him or talk to him and discover he was sheltered in place and safe.
As the torturous moments turned into terrifying minutes, Leigh’s sister was able to get the police scanner on her computer and I was able to call up a map of the university on my laptop. We would listen intently, and we would trek.
Shots were reported here and there. Each alert seemingly was pointed closer and closer to Will’s dormitory. Then, all of a sudden and out of nowhere, there was some video from a freshman who was located in Will’s own dormitory. It showed a swarm of kids exiting the building – with hands raised into the air. They were running. They were screaming. They were crying.
As we watched, our minds were racing. Our fears were screaming. Our eyes were crying, too.
Was Will in that group, estimated to be about 100 students? Was Will in danger? Was Will being chased and targeted?
In what seemed like an eternity of doubt, we waited. We kept dialing. We kept getting no answer on his phone and to our questions. Until finally, Leigh got a call from a random number on her phone. She answered quickly.
It was Will. He was borrowing a phone from a fellow female student, who he didn’t know at all, but who was trapped in the same mystery and agony. He told us he was part of that group running. He told us that they had heard that the suspect and shooter was in his dorm and headed their way to the cafeteria. He told us they took flight and were now hunkered down in a nearby parking garage. He told us the police were toting automatic guns and were yelling instructions. He told us that the SWAT team was preparing to enter the same structure he was leaving — at the same exact time. He told us the hysteria and confusion. He told us that he was scared. He asked if he was going to be alright.
And, just like that he was gone again.
For the next hour, we listened to the scanner. For the next hour, we trekked the supposed movements and reports. For the next hour, we prayed harder than ever before and begged for mercy and peace.
Until, we couldn’t wait any more. This time Leigh called that random number back. A young lady – frightened and alarmed – answered. We described our son who had used her phone previously. And, amazingly, the young lady took her phone to our son for another update.
The group had decided to move again when they heard the scanner bark that the suspect and shooter was supposedly moving toward the parking garage. They took flight and this time made their way to the SWAT and TV trucks at the end of the street. Once there, they hunkered down, yet again.
The fear in Will’s voice was rare. And, it was obvious. We told him to stay there and not move again. He said that the group had made a decision to ride it out right where they belonged.
Another hour passed. Another year off our lives passed. Until we got our third call. This time it came from Will’s phone. This time, mom snatched it up like a starving person with the last crumb of bread. It was Will. He was in his room. The suspect and shooter was reportedly found. Found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The ordeal was over.
We collapsed. We all cried. Both tears of true sorrow and sadness, and tears of joy, to some degree, that our son was safe.
On this Wednesday, Will arrived back home in Kentucky. We hugged like we had never hugged before and we all ate dinner together for the first time in such a long, long, long time. We talked like we had never talked before.
This world, today, can be so stark and dark. We had witnessed the most stark, and the darkest hours.
This world, today, seems to take so much away and give back too much grief and sorrow. We had witnessed the sacrifices and the sadness.
This world, today, is so hard to understand. On this Wednesday night, this world was so hard to explain to a bewildered kid who had just witnessed things that no 18-year-old should ever see or live through, too.
But for us – the lucky ones – we get another chance to hug. We get another chance to share a meal. We get another chance to explain, and talk and struggle to make this world just a bit better. We get another bite at this apple of life.
For those young people – and families – that lost life and so much more? They don’t get these chances again. Never again.
And, truly, that is such a gut punch; such a disgrace; such a waste; such a crying, crying, crying shame.
There are no words to explain. There are no words to soothe and relieve. There are simply no words.
But when you look into the bewildered eyes on an 18-year-old, who now has more questions than anyone has answers, you realize that we all must do better. When you hold and hug onto an 18-year-old whose insides are turned upside down, you know that we all must do more. When you feel the heart of an 18-year-old pump harder than after a 3-mile run and see truly break for the first time, you truly realize – maybe for the first time ever – that what the world needs now is love, sweet love; no not just for some; but for everyone.
Every. Single. One.
Today we got Will home. A place he can feel safe. A place he can heal. A place where he can learn to relax again.
A place where he can be loved.
What Will needs now is love; sweet love; no not just for some; but for everyone.
And, we plan on giving him just that. With everything we have to offer. With everything we can muster.
At the end of each day, we will pray that the dreadful and horrid memories of yesterday will begin to fade and leave our son alone.
At the beginning of each new day, we will pray that the light of tomorrow will win. Again. And, the promise of a new day will bring both warmth and hope to fill our son. Again.
At the very least, we will pray that our son and the other ones like him at Michigan State — who had so much stollen from them this week — will eventually win back their faith, hope and love, and make our world a little better than we know it today. After all, they are our future.
And, the greatest of these is love.
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