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They Were My People. I Never Knew Them. And Now They are Dead

June 28, 2018

Rob Hiaasen, 59, Assistant Editor and columnist
Wendi Winters, 65, Community Correspondant
Gerald Fischman, 61, Editorial Page Editor
John McNamara, 56, Staff Writer
Rebecca Smith, 34, Sales Assistant

These are five people I’ve never met, and prior to today, I’d never heard of them.

And now they are dead.

This afternoon at 2:40pm Eastern Time a crazed gunman walked into the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis Maryland armed with a shotgun and killed them.

He was apparently angry about a story the paper ran seven years ago about him. He sued. The paper won. He held a grudge.

I’m sure we’ll hear more about gun control and gun rights in the coming days. We’ll find out the make and model of the shotgun. By the time the coverage dies down, we’ll know not only where he bought it but how many shells he had in his pocket.

This really isn’t a post about gun control.

I’m a writer. These were writers. I’m a columnist. These were columnists. I’ve had people angry at what I write. This man was angry about what they wrote.

I don’t work in a newsroom. But, I do “newspaper” as they say. I write for my local paper. The Captial Gazette was described as a local paper. I do a column and occasionally an article for the Timpanogos Times. It the local paper for my little town of Pleasant Grove, Utah.

We live in a violent society. It’s not as violent as some would have us believe. But, it’s not as safe either. It took the police less than 60 seconds to respond to the shooting. And still, five died and others were wounded.

We measure tragedies by thinking of how close to home they strike. “I was almost on that plane.” “I used to go to that high school.” “My kid is the same age as those kids.”

The more distance we can put between us and the tragedy, the easier it is to “deal with it” and move on. “I’ve never been to the Middle East.” “I don’t know anyone near the site of that disaster.” “I live on a mountain, tsunamis aren’t a thing we worry about.”

This one strikes a little close to home. I’m a part time journalist, these people did it full time, but we shared a common ethos. We were of the same tribe. We both believe that there is value in putting words down on paper and we are all arrogant enough to think that there are people who care what we think.

And even in spite of a tragedy. We all know this universal truth, penned by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his play “Cardinal Richelieu”: The pen is mightier than the sword.

Rest in Peace.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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