On CNN both last night - before his execution, and this morning - after, the reporter told us both that he would, and then did, pay for the lives he took, with his own. She used almost the exact same words both times, in the future tense and then in the past. It struck me both times: how is that possible?
If he had taken one life, perhaps, and then been caught - perhaps one could argue that this was justice, that a full restitution had been made. But how can his one life pay the sum of ten other lives? How can his one death assuage the grief of 10 families? How can he pay for all ten, and the literally hundreds of lives he permanently damaged in the wake of the ones he took to the grave? Is it even possible?
Someone outside Washington has been shooting men and women without concern for race or age. The attacks have been both methodical and random….
We are always looking to make some sort of sense out of murder in order to keep it safely at bay: I don’t fit that description; I don’t live in that town; I would never have gone to that place, known that person. But what happens when we can’t say that—when there is no description, no place, nobody? Where do we go to get our peace of mind?....
The fact is, staving off our own death is one of our favorite national pastimes. Whether it is exercise, checking cholesterol, or having a mammogram—we are always trying to find out what the profile is—and then make sure we do not fit it. But a sniper taking a single clean shot, not into a crowd but through the sight, reminds us horribly of death itself. Despite our best intentions, it is still, for the most part, random. And it is absolutely coming. – Ann Patchett, New York Times Magazine