A bullet discharged. Then another. And another. And another. And suddenly, a grocery store is transformed from the mundane to the horrible, hell on earth. People lay dead. People lay in a hospital holding onto life.
What we know about the shooter so far is that he lived in a fantasy of his own creation. He hated a woman he did not know. He shot at those unknown to him. I will not name him, giving him power over his victims: Gabrielle Giffords, Christina Taylor Green, John Roll, Gabe Zimmerman, Dorwan Stoddard, Phyllis Scheck and Dorothy Morris. They will not have their lives defined by another's violence.
I remember the start of my last year at seminary. On September 11, I remembered the stillness of that day when we all stopped what we were doing. My then brother-in-law was working near the World Trade Center in New York when the planes hit. He was lost to us in the first few hours, only to emerge from the dust cloud that had been the pride of New York.
After September 11, we stopped. We look around us past the increasing pace of life. We asked, why? We were shocked out of our usual games. One of St. Benedict's rule for spiritual renewal is to keep death in front of you. Those days after the horrible tragedy of September 11, we paused and reflected on who we were as a people and who we wanted to be. We were shaken out of our individual fantasies to the reality of the fragility of life. We were kinder to each other, for a little while. It did not last long, but for once we picked up our collective cross.
Now, there is a difference. Not long after the bullets, an opinion was voiced. Then another. And another. And another. Shattering the silence. Even before the families have mourned, we have not stopped playing our games of who is right and who is wrong. Westboro Baptist Church is planning to be at the funeral of the victims, claiming that the shooter is a messenger of God, trying to claim what they desire most, the public's attention. Pundits give us an ongoing scorecard of who can score political points.
I know many readers at this point have their dukes raised to answer any perceived attack. Let them down for once as Gabrielle fights for her life. Let's unclench our fists and clasp our hands in a sign of prayer, at least for a little while longer.
Today, stop and kiss your child on her forehead; caress your wife or husband; tell your parents you love them. Today, stop and do not ask whose side will benefit, who is wrong and who is right, but remember the delicate crystal gift that is our small lives. Remember that love is the better portion. Remember that we are all ashes and to ashes we will return. One day, for all of us, the mundane will become something different.
Ernesto Tinajero is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington, who earned his master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. Visit his blog at beingandfaith.blogspot.com.