By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Memories emerge after tragic shooting

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Fifty-year-old memories surfaced this week as I heard slowly emerging fragments of a story about Saturday’s tragic shooting death in Yamhill.

Back then, it was my young friend Martin Alexander, who died during a quick-draw game that he and another local boy were playing with an “unloaded” pistol. Last weekend, Colby Duyn from Yamhill became the most recent area victim of an accidental gunshot.

There’s no making sense of such random acts of devastation. We live lives that are an instant away from catastrophic events that can change everything — from the highways to the home, from violent crimes to unpredictable accidents and health failures. Thankfully, along the way, most of us are protected by an inherent belief that “it can’t happen to me.”

That feeling is confirmed day after day for most of us. Oddly, even as we hear about and personally experience some misfortune for others, our own sense of invulnerability remains intact. That’s a gift in terms of our individual lives, but perhaps it prevents us from acting aggressively enough to change the circumstances resulting in so many human disasters.

Parts of today’s story reached us quickly on Monday, but law enforcement authorities would not provide details needed to deliver a creditable report. Some thought it was a lapse to print Tuesday’s newspaper without noting the terrible loss of life; others recognized the need to make sure we understood the unfolding story before rushing to publication.

We can find all manner of statistics about 30,000-plus firearm deaths each year. We read analyses suggesting that the thousands of young people reportedly killed in accidental shootings actually represent a dramatic undercount of actual numbers because of law enforcement reporting anomalies. We know that the majority of accidental firearm victims are mid-20s or younger, most of them shot by a family member or friend.

We mostly take note of all this from afar, through the lens of our “never me” mentality and the rarity of our personal connection to such tragedies.

When such an event comes closer, as it did last weekend in Yamhill, it’s not statistics that come to mind but, rather, a jumble of thoughts and emotions that remember what was and contemplate what isn’t to be. Our hearts go out to those who are closest to that sadness, as we offer support to those who seek to change a world that has so many opportunities for similar sorrows.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news or 503-687-1223.

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