We had all of five minutes to grieve when we heard. Just about the time it took between the knock at the door and the first journalists to start Googling her name and making their way over, just behind the cops.
The first of them, a young guy from a local affiliate to one of the big networks, he got our name wrong. He got her name wrong. He ran up asking about Rachel Jennings, which for a moment made everything almost better. Maybe there had been a mistake? It’d be easy to make in the chaos after the shooting. Maybe Jenna was ok, hurt perhaps, not able to call or let us know where she was, but more ok than dead. The tetchy looking cop who was still lingering in our doorway killed that hope quickly enough though, half shoving and half punching the young hack away from our door. The right thing to do, even if he shouldn’t have done it. I almost went to stop him, ask him why the hell he was trying to keep good news away from us but I figured things out soon enough. My wife was already ahead of me, crying and retreating into the house. I had to start again, too confused to be angry at the journalist, too confused to cry myself, for a moment at least.
The tide after that was relentless. Cameras, broadcast vans, polished and shined TV faces making the whole damn street look like prime time. I’m told they had policies about not bothering families who’ve lost someone when shit like that happens and maybe they weren’t trying to. It’s a small town though, it was harder to miss the grief than it was to find it and most every family on our block had lost someone, or knew someone who had.
We locked down for those few days where people cared. I saw neighbours talking on camera, only from a distance though. I plucked at the blinds, staring at the circling journalists and occasional police car – just about the only escape I had from the wailing and crying we had in the house. It was good, in a way. I could watch the story unfold, muted, but there – moving and fading as people spoke or clammed up. My wife wouldn’t have the TV on, not with our other daughter, Haley, in the house. Stupid, I thought. If we could watch it then we could get some distance, y’know? She thought I was just in shock though, when she could talk to me anyway. I was a burden she told me later, gawping at TV vans and getting my face half caught in the edge of framed shots. Now maybe I think she was right. At the time though? Fuck that. She wanted to sit and cry and stare at nothing. At least watching it we could have seen something happening, seen some kind of memorial for Jenna being played out by someone who wasn’t us, someone who wasn’t trapped inside that damn house.
By the time the press left and the police stopped hanging around I was going stir crazy. It’s odd but I didn’t grieve then. Not really. Haley and my wife were crying and screaming and talking, healthy I guess, processing it all. I just felt locked in though, trapped with a fact and, to be honest, with people I wanted to be away from. Jenna was dead for fucks sake, shot in the chest and dead. All the mourning in the world wasn’t going to change that, not in our suddenly tiny, claustrophobic cell of a house. At least out there people were offering an ending, a story they were telling with an end that came when someone said ‘cut’. Shock, again, I was told. Bullshit really, it was meant as an insult because I wasn’t weeping and sobbing like I should. And it wasn’t like Jenna was going to see me weeping and sobbing was it? That was the whole point, she was dead, she was gone and she was dead. There was no crying for her, there was just crying for us.
I got a hold of the news footage later on, it was all over YouTube. Crying kids just after the shooting had stopped, traumatised parents, talking heads guessing at how and why it had all happened. Hours I spent watching that stuff, all of it, every channel, every reporter, every jackass with an opinion. She said I hadn’t gotten over it, hell, she said I’d never accepted it in the first place. I got my resolution though, just not like she wanted, I got something far bigger than she did. I got the story, I got a beginning, a middle and, when the story stopped, an end – of sorts.
They shot him, the kid that is. The one who’d started the shooting and fled the scene. Cops caught him in a parking lot a few miles away, shot him when he wouldn’t drop his gun. I watched that too, although it wasn’t supposed to be out there. Someone posted the footage, fucked up as that is. A load of strangers left comments, half of them calling him a hero, half of them giving a play by play of the bullet that took him down. Like I said, an end, of sorts. Certainly more than anyone else got in that house.