I spent a week in Salem recently with my granddaughter. During that time my biggest concern was what nutritious but yummy delights I was going to make for our breakfast and lunch. For the first time in a long time I felt completely relaxed.
Kayla with her shortbread cookie after one of our afternoon strolls in Salem. The Daily Triplicate/Michele Thomas
I was pressed into service as a babysitter while my son worked and my daughter-in-law wrapped up her two kindergarten classes for the year, getting her students graduated into first grade. I fell into the role naturally and grew more confident as each day passed.
The truth is Kayla could have gone to the nursery at the school where her mother teaches like she usually does. But Rick asked me to leave for a week and the kids graciously offered me a place to stay. A long-neglected project in our laundry finally got moved to the front burner and Rick was willing to tackle it as long as I was out of the house. He didn’t want my input, he said. Fine.
My days in Salem went something like this: wake up, make coffee, Kayla wakes up, cuddle time, breakfast, play time, get dressed, go for a walk with Kayla in the stroller, get coffee at Borders and peruse books, walk home via the mall, lunch, nap, cuddle time, repeat morning routine but add a shortbread cookie with the coffee.
I returned to Crescent City with a happy heart and floated through my first day back at work until last Tuesday. Early that morning we heard on the scanner that there was a double shooting at Shangri La Trailer Park. The rest of the day was nerve-racking, wondering where the armed-and-dangerous perpetrator was and then hearing he was spotted at a picnic table around the corner from my home.
The gruesome details of the circumstances leading up to the shootings cast a shadow over each new day as the story enfolded. Monday morning, editor Richard showed me a photograph of the victim her father had given him at the candlelight vigil Friday night. Richard said the photo had haunted him all weekend. The face of that young girl — she looked more like 10 than 14 in her Hannah Montana PJs hugging her kitty Tigger — looked back at me and I could only think of Kayla.
Heinous crimes against innocent children deserve the harshest punishment. We all know it, but it’s easy to not think about it until a tragedy like this one plays out in our own back yard.
In a very short span of time I went from relaxed to repulsed. It’s more than a mood swing. I’m angry and disillusioned with the system that let Cecilia down. A failed, dismal system that lets all the Cecilias in our state, in our nation, in our world down.
If there’s one thing we can do in the wake of this spilling of a child’s blood here in Crescent City, it’s advocate for stricter laws with fewer loopholes so the animals that stalk our children stay behind bars like they should.