Dear Dr. Hartley: I so appreciate your reflections on Mark Hummels' brilliance, sense of humor, and zest for life. I knew him when he was a senior at Colorado College and the year following, when he interned and served on staff at my little fledgling alt newsweekly, the Colorado Springs Independent. His intelligence and wit were legend, but what I remember best was his eagerness to go out and experience life and write about it. He was one of the best guys I've ever known. My heart breaks for Dana.
Regarding death by gun violence, sadly, Mark's is the third in the last six years among people I dearly love. The last time I spoke to Mark was in 2008, when my two books were published, and I gave him the terrible news that my son had died of suicide with a handgun after an Army tour in Iraq. Three years later, his father, father of my four children, my former spouse of 20 years and lifelong best friend, a brilliant and successful physician, ended his life with a gun.
The son who died had lost his best friend in high school to suicide with a gun, and a mutual friend of theirs, who served in Iraq with my son and went on to be a Green Beret in the Army, shot himself in his home following three active duty special ops tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He had a four-month old daughter and a beautiful wife from Poland who left the U.S. following his death.
My first book, Simon Says: A True Story of Boys, Guns and Murder (DaCapo Press, 2008) was about a group of teenaged boys in Colorado Springs who formed a secret paramilitary organization under the leadership of a sociopath and murdered a 15-year old schoolmate and his grandparents. Needless to say, in writing the book, I came to know that family and those who survived them, and the families of all the perpetrators, exceedingly well.
So that makes my number 8. Not so unusual, I know. But just thinking about the ripple effect — all the sorrow and trauma associated with those losses — is overwhelming. The enormity of all that grief and loss.
The conversation you are starting is so important. I have racked my brain trying to think of a framework for a discussion of the repercussions of gun violence that is not polarizing or demonizing, and I think you have found a way.
Yours at this time of terrible loss, and in memory of Mark Hummels' heart and spirit,
Kathryn Eastburn, Colorado Springs
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