Faith and Columbine

“Oh my God, oh my God, don’t let me die!”

Not exactly the words I wanted to read before boarding a 737 one night ago.

I’ll get back to that in a moment.

If you spend a lot of time in airports, “people-watching” may not be something that you do much of when you’re at terminals. Because I don’t fly too often, I find that I take more than a casual interest in people — from the TSA agents, to the people around me, to the people departing and arriving.

Other than the extra $75 we had to spend for my overweight suitcase (59lbs) at check-in, nothing unusual occurred. And more mundanity ensued once we arrived to our gate — 4A: I found four seats together, placed a couple of carry-ons on the floor, grabbed one of my books, asked if anyone needed to use the restroom, and went to buy my wife what turned out to be an outrageously overpriced orange juice — even by Odwalla standards.

Once I sat down to read, it didn’t take long for one loudmouthed knucklehead to distract me. While I’ve often said that I could read a book at a rock concert and still concentrate, to my chagrin, there are some things that bust my concentration. In this case, an obnoxious, middle-aged man deciding that the time was ripe to give his dad social media training:

“And this is how you take a selfie . . . see, we just took one together…” He also explained that IMs and DMs are used to send people short “positive” messages without being too wordy. I appreciated that he said “positive”; still, he was being way too LOUD. To be kind, I assumed that his dad was hard of hearing. But that assumption fell by the wayside once he began conversing on his phone in an even louder and obnoxious tone.

I did my best to get back to my book: Columbine.

Chapter 38: MARTYR

“God? Do you believe in God?”

These six words were said to Columbine High School student Valeen Schnurr by Dylan Klebold — one of the killers in one of the country’s deadliest school shootings. Seconds after asking “Val” this question, Klebold abruptly lifted the shotgun away from her face and walked away.

She lived.

Other students were on the receiving end of similar words. Some lived. Some didn’t. On April 20, 1999 Dylan Klebold, and his partner, Eric Harris, stole the lives of 12 students and one teacher, and wounded another 24 in a quiet town in Colorado. Perhaps you remember?

Reading about it eighteen years later is surreal. O Magazine describes author Dave Cullen’s new book as a “narrative that is too vital to miss.” While I was trying to focus on an extremely intense part of chapter 38, I received this text from my wife: “I hate big shirts [on guys].”

After reading it, I glanced up and saw a guy a few feet in front of me with one of the biggest shirts I’ve ever seen. She and I quietly laughed. The text message was welcomed levity. I decided to take a break from reading, and engaged in more people-watching.

Not surprisingly, most people were on devices. The ubiquity of phones has undoubtedly made waiting areas quieter.

Finally: “Adults traveling with children six years old or younger may now board.”

Perfect!

A few minutes later, the pilot reminded passengers that there would turbulence during the ascent and descent. “Buckle-up!”

Great.

As much as I try not to think about movies like Airport 77 or Airplane or Sully; I just can’t help it. While I don’t particularly like to fly, I know that it’s much safer than driving down Interstate 5, and of course, much, much faster. Occasionally, I try to avert my thoughts with stuff like — I wonder what the Wright Brothers would have thought of a plane like this? Sometimes that works; most of the time it doesn’t, so I rely on my faith and continue to read.

Reading about the carnage at Columbine didn’t seem like a good idea at first. After all, I had two other books; however, it was a good reminder that faith isn’t only reserved for moments of complete terror. It also has its place in something as common as a 55-minute flight home.

“Welcome to Vegas.”

Everyone knew the flight attendant meant “San Jose.” After more heavy reading, it was nice to end the flight with a good laugh. And, of course . . . it was good to be home.

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