Alexandria Police and witness recount shooting at congressional baseball practice
How many times have you heard this sentence in the last little while?
“I guess that’s the world we live in today.”
We heard it Wednesday, when a gunman from Belleville shot a congressman, a Capitol Hill aide and police officers in an act so bewildering we might never know its cause.
We heard it three weeks ago, when a terrorist exploded a bomb among children leaving an Ariana Grande concert in Britain.
We heard it in 2012 and 2015, when killers attacked children in Newport, Conn., and San Bernardino, Calif., and theater-goers in France.
We heard it on Sept. 11, 2001, maybe for the first time, a senseless act that perhaps lies at the heart of the hurt that has plagued our nation ever since.
Can our children grow up in a world where people aren’t shot for what they do or what they believe or what they say?
Wednesday the madness came to our nation’s capital and a baseball field, an attack on people who have sacrificed their personal lives to serve the public good.
It was an attack on people who were doing good for others — preparing to play a game in the seat of a nation that holds baseball to be our national pastime.
It was an attack on public servants who had found a way to raise thousands of dollars for children’s charities, an act so virtuous the attack is nothing but profane.
Can our children grow up in a world where people aren’t shot for what they do or what they believe or what they say? Where people aren’t attacked for the color of their skin or the religious beliefs they hold? Where we find a way to get along despite the anger and the issues that separate us?
For more than one of us in the BND newsroom this week, the news of the day recalled the horror of a sunny September day 17 years ago. And for more than one of us, it recalled the words Jack Buck chose when he summoned us back to baseball after a week of mourning the lost in New York and Washington and a field in Pennsylvania.
Buck, the Hall of Fame Cardinals broadcaster, stood at a microphone near home plate at Busch Stadium. In the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease, he struggled to hold the papers that held a poem he’d written.
Sad to say, even then was a simpler time, a moment when we thought all the evil could be found overseas in a fanatic fringe sworn to our destruction.
That hate can be found today in other places than a cave in Pakistan, but Buck’s words resonate in a world even less certain than in the days following Sept. 11.
“Since this nation was founded under God,
more than 200 years ago,
We have been the bastion of freedom,
the light that keeps the free world aglow.
“We do not covet the possessions of others;
We are blessed with the bounty we share.
We have rushed to help other nations;
anything … anytime … anywhere.
“War is just not our nature,
We won’t start but we will end the fight.
If we are involved,
We shall be resolved,
To protect what we know is right.
We have been challenged by a cowardly foe,
Who strikes and then hides from our view.
With one voice we say,
‘We have no choice today,
There is only one thing to do.’
“Everyone is saying the same thing and praying,
That we end these senseless moments we are living.
As our fathers did before,
We shall win this unwanted war,
And our children will enjoy the future we’ll be giving.”
When challenged by a cowardly foe, who strikes and then hides from our view, can we somehow find a way to prevent these senseless moments?
I guess that’s the world we live in today.
Joe Ostermeier is a senior editor at the Belleville News-Democrat. He has written about the Cardinals for the BND since 1985, and was at Busch Stadium the night Buck read his poem in September 2001. He can be reached at: 618-239-2512, @JoeOstermeier