Chris Marston: What is going on?

I sat down at the table in our vacation rental this morning.  My coffee was fresh.  My doughnut was great.  My wife, my daughter and her friend were still sleeping soundly after a full day of sun and fun at the beach.  It was time to finish part three of my series on Sheriff Thomas and my write-up on Luray’s famous haunted house, Darkwood Manor.  Both of these were over due and although vacation is the time to get away from it all, I wanted to get these things done before the weekend.  It was time to do so.

And then I turned on the TV.

Twelve dead and 59 injured in a shooting rampage in an Aurora Colorado movie theater.

Now, I had spent the better part of yesterday breaking other vacation rules.  I had left my debit card at home.  I had written my last check out of the checkbook.  I had $200 to my name, and four days to get through … you do the math.  Since I had already began to worry about this that and the other, I felt it was time to finish my active Free Press projects so that when I returned home I could begin anew.

I sat stunned.  Twelve dead and 59 injured.  An assault rifle, an assault shotgun and a pair of glocks.

The Free Press opened up shop on March 2.  Since then I have watched as a tourism matriarch of Luray passed away.  Her passing, although tragic, was simply a part of life.  She was a contemporary of my grandparents.  I had two grandmothers pass in the last 15 months; my wife lost her grandfather just after Easter.  Life can test your constitution and will.

Twelve dead and 59 injured at a midnight showing of a movie.

Also since March 2, I found myself breaking a story about a school mate of my sister, her grandmother and child being killed in a shooting in Virginia Beach.  It was tragic.  It was domestic.  Although it made no sense, at least the story is shared with other domestic violence tragedies which occur more often than we like to admit.  Again, life can be unfair and unpredictable.

Twelve dead and 59 injured.

Also since March 2, Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine pass away.  I have to explain to my daughter who Griffith was, but she knows Borgnine as the voice of a retired superhero character on SpongeBob SquarePants.  Both were great me and even greater actors.  Both gave their all to their families and profession.  Life on Earth once again shows that it is not eternal.

But all I could keep thinking about while my vacation stalled this morning was 12 dead and 59 injured.

Having worked in the timeshare industry, I was taught by great salespeople.  Project a sense of urgency.  Make people think.  How many springs do we have left to smell the first cut grass.  How many more times are we to be provided with the changing colors of the majestic mountains that we take for granted so very often.  How many birthdays, opening days, cheer competitions and other events are we going to be able to share with our loved ones.  Plucking at heartstrings really sells timeshares.  Life is very emotional.

So I thought about the three weeks before leaving for vacation and the emotions and stress that accompanied them.  The bills that needed paid.  The debts to friends that needed cleared.  The grass that needed mowed.  The house repairs that needed fixed.  The house cleaning that needed finished.  Once again, life touches us all.

Twelve dead and 59 injured.

Over 200 people are said to have bought tickets to the showing of the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colo. last night.  Almost half of them were shot 30 minutes or so into the film.  Those that were not hit by bullets were smacked in the face with emotions.  They were stunned.  Their constitution and wills were damaged.  It was unfair and unpredictable.  It showed them and us that life is not eternal and time spent with one another is a gift not to be taken for granted.  It showed us all that life does touch us all.

My little girl has a significant sunburn.  Her friend is exhausted.  My wife is just starting to catch up on rest.  I am stressed over life and its challenges and all the things I want to do when I get home – but today helped to ground me once again.  Today, I was reminded about how fragile life truly is.  Today I was able to refocus on why we need to get away from life and its difficulties at times.   Today I was able to remind myself why I talked my wife into getting away this summer in the first place, regardless of the financial obligations that we had elsewhere.

And all it took me to bring this epiphany back to light was…

Twelve dead and 59 injured.

After I pick some blackberries and enjoy some beach time with a couple of 10 year olds, I am going to finish my story on the sheriff and haunted house. Tomorrow we are searching for shark teeth and visiting George Washington’s and James Monroe’s birthplaces.  Sunday we will explore the Civil War battlefield at Fredericksburg.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Aurora, the survivors of the shooting, the families of the dead and the law enforcement and emergency crews left with the clean-up and investigation.

My thoughts and prayers are also with the shooter and his family.

My thoughts and prayers are also with my family and friends and others that I am close with.

Twelve dead and 59 injured.

Chris Marston is the executive editor of

Augusta Health Kris McMackin CPA
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