Trying to make sense of a senseless act
Hinsdale 11/20/07 Western Springs Columnist: Vicki Gonia Doings photo by Steve Johnston
Updated: November 10, 2011 3:11AM
I wasn’t going to write about this. I was going to move on, talk about easier things. Mention a fund-raiser. Talk about supporting local businesses, or highlight one of our awesome residents.
But I can’t. I don’t have the words to put the tragedy of the death of a beautiful and vibrant young woman into any sort of context. Don’t know that I’m capable of offering words of comfort.
I think one of the most terrifying things about the murder of Kelli O’Laughlin is its randomness. It’s the nature of human beings to look for explanation. To find a way to tell ourselves that this couldn’t ever happen to us, to our family members. So we reach and grasp for facts that might help to make sense of the senseless.
But as outlined just moments ago, as I sit in front of my computer trying to find words while watching the press conference detailing the charges and some of the evidence against John Wilson, Jr. (honestly, I despise putting this name into print. I want to write “THIS MONSTER” “THIS LESS-THAN-HUMAN MONSTER”), this was, apparently, a random crime.
And there’s no way to make sense of a random act.
As a fiction writer and teacher, it’s my job to reach for the “why?” The “what-if’s.” And that’s what so many of us are asking right now in the wake of this horrible, horrible thing. Why Kelli? Why this neighborhood? What if she’d taken a later bus? Had hung out with friends after school? What if the man charged had chosen a different house?
What if it hadn’t happened at all? Why did this have to happen at all?
Right? Isn’t that what we want to know?
I can’t imagine the pain that Kelli’s family and friends are enduring right now. My heart aches for them. It also aches for what The Doings student columnist Annika Murrell eloquently describes in her column. The loss of innocence, especially for the young people of the LT community.
As members of the communities served by Lyons Township High School — including Indian Head Park, Western Springs, La Grange, LaGrange Park — we are proud to live in a place where we can walk around with a reasonable sense of safety.
As parents, we treasure the fact that our kids can grow up feeling that sense of safety, too. That it’s usually okay for them to walk outside at night. To go places alone. To come home to an empty house.
I think it’s that sentiment, in large part, that motivated so many of us to stand along 55th Street and Wolf Road on Friday morning. To show our support as a community for one of our own. To offer our hearts and prayers to a family who has lost their precious child. To mourn our own loss of innocence. Our loss of a sense of safety.
So, where do we, as a community, go from here? How do we honor the memory of Kelli?
It’s natural, because we are human, to feel a tremendous sense of anger. To feel hate. To wish for revenge. To curse the soul of someone who, it seems clear, has been walking around with a cursed soul for most of his life. (He must. What kind of evil drives a person to do such a thing?)
But we can’t let that consume us. We cannot let fear and hate take over in our hearts. (To be perfectly honest with you, though, sorrow and hate seem to be battling it out inside my heart at this moment. I hate that the man who has been charged with this crime exists. I wish terrible, terrible things for him. I do. I can’t lie about that.)
But the assembly of such masses of people along the route of Kelli’s funeral procession gave me a sense of hope, even as I wiped tears from my eyes. As a community, we will continue to offer Kelli’s family whatever kind of support we can. We will help to enrich the Memorial Fund founded in her honor. We will teach our children how to be more aware, even while we soothe their wounded spirits and reassure them that they are safe.
We will try to reject hate and fear, and embrace peace and love of our community and fellow residents. We will try to reclaim what we once treasured, even while we know we will forever be touched by the death of Kelli Joy O’Laughlin.
To donate to the Kelli Joy O’Laughlin Memorial Fund, please visit the website at http://kellijoyolaughlinmemorialfund.com for more information.
Readers can contact Viki Gonia by leaving a message at (708) 824-8027 or by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.