Back in 1998, I was driving across the country. Somewhere in east Texas, I stopped at a fast food joint. Back in them olden days, one could read a physical newspaper in such places. Not having seen the news for a day or so, I grabbed one. Then I flipped the paper over to read the story of Kip Kinkel, the son of my high school Spanish teacher (well, I took French so I knew her but she wasn’t technically my teacher I guess) had killed her and his father and then opened fire at his high school, which was the one on the other side of town. I must have made some unholy noise because everyone in the place stopped and stared at me. I was pretty shaken. Back then of course, this sort of thing was not a weekly occurrence. Bill Clinton even came to town in the aftermath. This is part of the reason why I am so quick to anger with gun nuts, leading of course to the right-wing attacks against me in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting in 2010, which affected me in a personal way.
What happens to the family members of these killers? If you read one thing this week, check out the New Yorker article on Kinkel’s sister and her relationship to her brother who is finally on medication and in as good of a place you can be with that history. There’s a lot of fascinating material in here on the sheer psychological issues around such a thing. The end of the story, where the author speaks to a survivor who has become extremely successful despite some lingering physical issues from the shooting (it always surprises me when people from my home town do become successful given how much it was struggling back then), is really very moving as well.