Almost 25 years ago, one of my older brothers was graduating from the University of Minnesota. He was a fixture on the dean’s list and a burgeoning chemical engineer.
About 20 years ago, he was working on a factory floor, where he toiled for a few years until he finally settled and landed a job with a medical software company. That company has paid him more than handsomely over the years, but he never did use that chemical engineering degree, specifically.
While working his fanny off in classrooms and at various jobs that put food in his fridge, he elected to not pursue an internship. He’s always been a brilliant person – smarter than me – but that was a pretty dumb move, not getting an internship.
That’s what’s stuck in my mind after Friday’s tragedy at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora on Friday. Trevor Wehner was a 21-year-old kid from Sheridan who “did all the right things,” his high school hoops coach said. Including getting an internship before graduating, apparently.
Friday was the first day of his internship, and my heart is broken for all the families, friends and colleagues of the five people killed. But I keep thinking about Wehner and his parents, who undoubtedly are so proud of him and the way he was taking the reins of his future, before evil ripped them away.
Over the years, I’ve learned when bad things happen, it’s best not to let them consume us. It’s not useful. What’s best is to find a takeaway, and it’s near-impossible in a situation such as this.
But here’s mine. In about 15 years, I’ll be that parent checking in with my children to make sure they’re looking into internship opportunities. That is, a few years after I stay on them about applying for scholarships to whichever university they long to attend. Maybe it will be Northern Illinois University, which is mourning Wehner, who was supposed to graduate in May, and Clayton Parks, who graduated from NIU in 2014. All this a year removed from the community marking the 10-year anniversary of the Feb. 14, 2008, Cole Hall shooting.
Less than a year ago, I was a journalist who kept grinding away and tried to encourage my co-workers as news broke that a man shot and killed five employees at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland.
I’m not a country-Western fan, but if I ever get free tickets to a Jason Aldean concert, you better believe I’m using those, after how outspoken he was about the guilt he felt in the wake of the shooting in September 2017 in Las Vegas.
I’m going to keep putting myself out there, keep going to work, going everywhere I choose to go, without fear.
I won’t delve too far into the political weeds on this one, apart from saying arguments from both sides of the aisle are founded. It’s taken a perfect storm of lack of gun control and the mistreatment of mental illness for us to get to a place where these shootings are happening over and over again.
Write your representatives. Look out for your brothers and sisters when they’re troubled.
We must be cognizant of evil, but fear of it isn’t useful. Please join me in choosing joy, spreading love and continuing to live our best lives without giving evil the attention it wants so desperately and, in turn, letting it win.
• Christopher Heimerman is the editor
at the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.