In The Silence That Followed

For the moment, it’s All Quiet On The Western Front.

I’ve spent the morning taking portraits of my fellow office employees for the “Who’s Who” wall, and trying to solve the ugly jaundice of florescent lighting and it’s unfortunate effects on the ethnic skin spectrum.  I typically shoot near the window for natural light, using a speed flash as needed.  And still, some of them come out tinged even after color correcting with ‘Curves’ and ‘Photo Filter.’  Perplexing!

I’m sitting in my cube listening to ‘God Speed! You Black Emperor’, and the background chatter of the janitorial staff conversing in laughing Spanish.  No temporal distortions today; no pondering thoughts into the Great Beyond, no journal entries or dreams made into weird fiction.  Instead, I’d like to talk briefly about George Sodini, the man who shot three women dead in a Pennsylvania gym before killing himself out of an apparent desire for a girlfriend.

“A man needs a woman for confidence.  He gets a boost on the job, career, with other men, and everywhere else when he knows he has someone to spend the night with and who is also a friend,” wrote Sodini.  “Flying solo for many years is a destroyer.”

In a video he’d posted to YouTube, Sodini toured his house and made offhand mention of the matching chairs and cleanliness of his living space before remarking, “it is easy for me to hide from my emotions for one more day.”

“Take a long drive in a car,” he told himself.  “Listen to some music, daydream or just do some mundane task around the house that really doesn’t need to be done that’s not too important.  And there you go, one more day, and one more day turns into one more year.”

I’m sure that it’s part of Allegheny County police superintendent Charles Moffatt’s public relations responsibility to say that a person capable of pulling the trigger on a class of exercising women “just had a lot of hatred in him,” but I don’t think it was as simple as hate.  In his online journal, Sodini confessed that he’d “never spent a weekend with a woman, never vacationed with a woman and never lived with a woman,” and that he had had limited sexual experiences.  It’s obvious he felt a growing rage for the women who’d rejected him, and for the world he felt had abandoned him.  I don’t think this action was purely about rage. It was about stopping the pain.

I’m not saying I support or condone his actions. By no means. I just wish…, I don’t know, that someone had bothered to stop and talk to him, offer advice, ask him how he was doing.  The man was in pain, and nobody seemed to notice or give a damn until it impacted their lives in a violent fashion.  I feel the same frustration each time a shooter makes the news; I wanted to be in a position to dissuade Klebold and Harris from carrying out their plans, and I feel a tinge of regret and disappointment for every copycat the world has been introduced to since.

I’ve been in lonely spots, but I don’t think they were anywhere near as rough as George’s.  All in all, I’ve had and continue to have a pretty amazing life.  I’ve been to more countries than most folk have vowels in their names.  I’ve got an amazing kid, good friends and an interesting job.  I’ve had rewarding relationships with a handful of remarkable women, the majority of which I’ve managed to either part on good terms, or continue to claim them as friends.  I’ve had my evil days, but my heart is full of good.  As the X-Wife likes to remind me, I’ve been pretty damn lucky – not everyone has the same opportunities.

According to the article on CNN (which was quickly replaced by a story about Twitter’s denial of service attack), police spoke to a pastor mentioned on Sodini’s online diary.  The man said that Sodini had attended his church but stopped in 2006 and that there was a minor incident involving a woman who felt “he was paying too much attention to her,” Moffatt said.  The pastor spoke to Sodini, and it stopped, he said.

“He was hell bent on committing this act,” Moffatt said.  (Of course he was, genius.  He hadn’t had sex in almost 19 years.)

The guns aren’t the real story, and this shouldn’t involve the NRA.  Heartache is what pulled the trigger, and loneliness put people in the hospital with bullet wounds, and three others in the ground.  A human being felt pain, felt misery, felt loneliness, and when he could take no more, he acted out.  Read the excerpts from his (edited) online diary before it’s gone.  Some of it seems a little crude, admittedly, but that’s the nature of human thought.  ‘All things holy and profane’, as Thomas Hobbes put it.

Naturally, they ran an unflattering photo of the man.  “Look at him!  He was obviously a freak!  He wasn’t like us.  No, sir.  I feel safer now that he’s gone.  What if it’d been me?” Of course you’re free to judge, but I ask you to try on George’s shoes at least once.  What if it had been you?  What would you do in his situation?  How would you feel?  How would you cope with decades of rejection if you were George Sodini?

“Well, I’d never do that, I have more respect for myself, I’d do this, I’d have done that, I’d –“  Yeah.  Great.  Let me stop you right there, my friend.  I said ‘if you were George Sodini,’ the man no woman would touch, much less talk to.  He had a job, he worked out, went to church for awhile, he was clean shaven, took pride in his appearance, and no history of mental illness.  He was just a man.  And still…

As a result of George’s actions, I think I’m gonna take the buds out of my ears for the next few days, look around more, and talk to people.

Those killed were identified by the county’s medical examiner as Heidi Overmier, 46, of Carnegie, Pennsylvania; Elizabeth Gannon, 49, of Pittsburgh; and Jody Billingsley, 38, of Mount Lebanon.



2 thoughts on “In The Silence That Followed

  1. this was an awesome perspective. sometimes i think that people just want to feel wanted….by someone, anyone. i too feel so so so very lucky to have the live i have had considering….it is also sad that in america we are scared to try reaching out because we might be looked at as freaks…so sometimes people just keep it all to themselves for fear of being labeled and now this man will always be labeled as a killer instead of someone who just needed a friend, a companion, someone who cared….thanks for the post mack!

  2. I read his journal too, and unlike the mainstream news, I didn't see something filled with hate, just a pathetic individual who was ignored by the world. Don't get me wrong, I totally abhor his actions, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for him – deluded and psychotic as he was…

    For the sake of his victims, I wish someone could have intervened sooner…

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