This week marks my 15th year in the McCook Daily Gazette newsroom. To say that I was a "cub reporter" when I first walked through the door would be a gross overstatement.
As it was 15 years ago, there are eight desks in the newsroom, assembled in two groups of four, each desk designated for specific daily duties: city desk, local desk, feature desk, sports desk, etc. The newsroom is a beehive of activity on an ordinary day. There are some days, however, that are anything but ordinary.
Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those days. I broke the story here, after receiving a phone call from my husband, Danny, who had happened to see the first plane crash into one of the two twin towers. While we spoke, the second plane took out the second tower, and everything changed.
Thursday, Sept. 6, also was one of those days.
The normal beehive buzz has been somewhat elevated anyway since Aug. 18, when our editor, Bruce Crosby, also known as our "fearless leader," was injured. But when a jury summons appeared in my home mailbox, I took on an additional burden, made heavier as it became apparent that Bruce's absence would be an extended one.
When the summons arrived, I immediately figured that neither the attorneys nor the judge would really want me to serve, given my occupation and subsequent familiarity with the case. But a summons is a summons and must be answered.
However, I had no idea how heavy that burden had become until the morning of Sept. 7, when Danny remarked, "I guess you were dreading that summons more than I realized."
I had to ask, "Why do you say that?"
"Because," he explained, "you're singing again. I haven't heard you sing for weeks."
After 15 years in this newsroom, I guess it's time to come clean. Somehow, I've become a newspaperwoman. My evidence? When the story about the plea deal broke Thursday morning, my first thought was, "I want that story!"
The Gazette newsroom is home to a unique team of talented individuals who have nurtured their gifts and offered them to the team effort every working day of their lives, most for more years than can be counted. And regular as clockwork, barring an act of God, the McCook Daily Gazette rolls off the press Monday-Friday, some 255 issues, give or take, each year.
On Thursday, Connie Jo Discoe, veteran court reporter, knew exactly where to go, who to speak to and what questions to ask to get the necessary information for the story. As she wrote, everyone else was making adjustments to their duties of the day, freeing themselves up to lend a hand wherever it was needed. In little more than an hour, the story was ready, the page was proofed, and the press was ready to run.
My second thought, which formulated throughout the course of the morning as details became clear, was of Kailee, who has now received all of the justice our system can offer. A trial wouldn't have increased that measure of justice, in fact, it would have likely inflicted even more pain on an already traumatized family and an already traumatized community. I remain convinced that Kailee knew immediate peace when she fell into the arms of the One who has loved her from first thought, who loves her forever, and that she is satisfied with the outcome on this side of the veil.
As that thought formed, another quickly followed. Another young life is forfeit here. That of a young man who may never know any measure of peace, and who certainly will not take an unfettered breath for the full number of his days. His life, and all of the potential it once held, is now suspended, enslaved, even defined, by an act so evil even he could not comprehend it or find its source. Only God is qualified to judge him now, and only God can be trusted with that final judgment.
As I continue to process my next thought, I realize that in our modern society, it is entirely lacking in sophistication. I know that it hearkens back to what has come to be known as the dark ages as we moved forward, enlightened by our discoveries of human development; enlightened about how the mind works, how it can be warped and how we deal daily with the darkness that surrounds us.
In spite of all of our scientific discoveries, in spite of the advent of pharmaceutical therapies that sometimes successfully hold the darkness in abeyance, the thought persists.
Mark doesn't waste anytime revealing Jesus' identity, telling the story in Mark 1 about the man in the synagogue in Capernaum, possessed by an evil spirit. In fact, it is the evil spirit who identifies the Lord, saying in Mark 1:12 "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!"
Matthew also records a similar encounter in Matthew 8: 28 and 29: "When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 'What do you want with us, Son of God?' they shouted. 'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'
It would be the height of hubris for me to make a blanket statement about mental illness and other afflictions and lay all of it at the feet of demons. Nevertheless, their appointed time has not yet come; they are still among us -- even within us -- and we pretend otherwise to our own peril and to the peril of those who would be delivered from their heavy chains.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.