I intended to post this item last week, but I decided I needed a few extra days for my brain to process what happened. I still don't understand it, and I certainly don't feel any better.
A while back, I posted a blog about the sadness you feel when a community you know well is hit by tragedy or natural disaster. Those comments were about the catastrophic flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland. This one is about the shooting at the newspaper in Annapolis last Thursday.
Unless you grew up in Baltimore as I did, it's hard to explain how the nearby community of Annapolis affects your life. In my case, it went beyond Annapolis being the capital of Maryland, or just being a great place to visit, hang out, and enjoy great Maryland seafood. Annapolis meant a lot to me.
When I was a kid, Baltimoreans of my generation lived and died with two football teams: One was obviously the old Baltimore Colts of the NFL (Johnny Unitas!). Surprisingly, our city's favored college team was not the University of Maryland; plenty of people we knew (including my two sisters) went to school there, but rooting interest for the Terrapins seemed to be centered in the Washington area. Unlike DC, Baltimore was a hard-working, blue-collar maritime city, so Navy (Roger Staubach!) owned our hearts back then. In military shorthand, the Naval Academy is often just called "Annapolis." No elaboration is needed.
At one time, my old high school was regarded as a sort of unofficial prep school for the Naval Academy. We sent guys to Annapolis every year; in fact, one of my math teachers was a graduate of both Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and the Naval Academy. The Academy's academic recruiters loved the guys from Baltimore Poly. They knew we could handle the academic demands, and many of my classmates were good athletes, as well (I was a glaring exception in both those areas; don't ask).
However, my strongest connection to Annapolis is a professional one:
My first radio job out of college was at WYRE in Annapolis. The little AM is now silent, but it was once considered a great training ground, a "farm team" for guys who had their hearts set on being high-energy Top-40 deejays. Talk to any radio personality of my generation who spent a big chunk of his career in Baltimore, Washington, or Philadelphia, and there's a good chance they worked at WYRE somewhere along the line. We had only 250 watts to work with, but we made every one of them sound like a million. I already had a pretty good idea of what to do back then, but WYRE was where I learned to do it right.
So, Annapolis has a special place in my personal history, and that's why it hit me so hard when that lowlife -- I refuse to acknowledge his name -- opened fire at the offices of the Annapolis Capital Gazette (known informally as just the Capital), killing five members of the staff and seriously wounding several others. Initially, there was concern this assault was specifically directed at the news media and might be part of a wider plot, but as it turns out, this guy had a long-running feud with the Capital over how the paper covered (accurately and fairly) his stalking and criminal harassment escapades. USA Today characterized this clown as "...an angry loner, obsessed with those who 'wronged' him." Yeah, I feel for you pal, it's gotta be rough...
My heart sank as I watched the coverage of this horrible act. I knew that neighborhood. I recognized that building, and I certainly knew about the Capital; I bought copies of the paper countless times on my way into work. Even though I didn't know any of them personally, I grieved over the loss of five professional colleagues in the media, targeted for no reason other than they did their jobs and did them properly.
All I can do is offer thoughts and prayers for the victims, their families, and the Annapolis community. Sadly, thoughts and prayers is just about all we ever do until the next time-- when we will again offer our thoughts and prayers. Rinse and repeat...