Face to Face with a Victim of Gun Violence

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As we normally do on Sunday afternoon, Stephani and I stopped in to our local grocery store to pick up some food and supplies for the week. As we were checking out I could hear Stephani strike up a conversation with Maureen our checker. I’ve seen Maureen before, a quiet, kind woman. Today she seemed a little sad.

Not hearing everything they were conversing over above the background noise I moved the items from the shopping cart onto the moving conveyor, tossing our canvas bags on top and putting up the next divider for the person behind us.

Maureen was talking about an item the last customer bought. She mentioned “Seal Beach” and on today’s copy of the daily paper, the Orange County Register, the cover featured a courtroom image of Scott Dekraai. Scott was a former tug boat captain who in 2007 gunned down his ex-wife and seven other people at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach. It was the worst mass shooting in Orange County history. Dekraai went to Salon Meritage looking for and targeting his ex-wife Michele Fornier, Maureen’s sister. Today, in addition to scanning cans of peas, pasta, fruit, bread, beer and whatever else Huntington Beach had on the shopping list, Maureen was scanning copies of the Orange County Register featuring the face of her sister’s killer.

I am not sure if she had any alternative to working today, but if I were her boss, I would have gladly given her the day off.

We told her we remembered that awful day as if it was yesterday. It was horrible. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have lived through that experience, losing your sister to a monster like that. Just terrible.

It made me remember that each one of us is fighting our own very personal sadness each and every day. For Maureen, it is trying to get over the loss of her sister, greeting customers with a smile as they wait in line, consumed with their own lives, thumbing their mobile phones, missing out on an opportunity to cheer up perhaps the saddest person in the room, the person right in front of them.