Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tragedy

Americans and guns. Again. On Thursday night, an enraged man approached the government buildings of Kirkwood, a pleasant suburb of St. Louis. He was carrying a large handgun. The man shot and killed a police officer, taking his weapon. He then walked around the corner into City Hall, where a council meeting was taking place. Upon entering the council chamber, the assailant opened fire with both guns, killing another policeman and three city officials. The mayor was critically wounded. Other Kirkwood police officers rushed into the room and shot the gunman dead.

The event has dominated St. Louis news and was reported nationally, such as this New York Times article. The shooter was a small contractor who was in constant conflict with the city. He had disrupted previous council meetings, been arrested for disorderly conduct more than once and had recently lost a lawsuit against the city in which he claimed that his constitutional right to free speech had been violated. And he had a gun. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

I took pictures around the Kirkwood City Hall and the police station this morning. This kind of public outpouring of grief and sympathy is common in the US. Back in April, I reported on similar expressions when a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher died in an auto wreck while extremely intoxicated and driving at high speed. There is no question that these feelings are genuine but the decorations in front of City Hall today seemed somehow festive, full of bright colors and the Valentine's Day decorations now in stores.

The police station was something different. There were fewer people people and flowers, but still the Valentine's hearts. A single police officer stood alone across the street next to his car. His face was empty. He covered his eyes with black sunglasses. I wanted to be a good photojournalist and approach him, talk about how he was feeling and ask if I could take his picture in that setting. I've been trained to do this. I couldn't.

Afterwards, I drove downtown to my office as I usually do on Saturday. As I approached the Mississippi, the sky was cloudless. The steel gleam of the Arch was exceptionally bright.

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I'm working on several other pictures I took this morning. Some of them will be posted here on Sunday.


TOMORROW: More from Kirkwood.

8 comments:

Dorothée said...

I heard about this tragic event on the radio. This second Amendment makes me sick. How can we stand for such a "right" to kill people? I feel terribly sorry and sad for their families.

Bob McCarty Writes said...

After watching a local St. Louis television station’s interview of City Attorney John Hessel, I couldn’t help but think how he and other victims of Thursday night’s shooting tragedy in Kirkwood, Mo., might have fared better with the help of concealed firearms.

Among the 30 or so gathered in the Kirkwood City Hall meeting room that night, only one trained and qualified person — Officer Tom Ballman — carried a firearm. Had only one other trained person carried a firearm into the meeting that night, the number of dead and wounded might have been greatly reduced. Surprisingly, Kirkwood city laws don’t entirely prevent it!

Read more about it here.

Ming the Merciless said...

It is indeed a tragedy for the people of Kirkwood and a very scary time for us all. It was reported on last night's evening news that there have been 5 shooting incidents across the country this week alone.

Locally, we have had a couple of "scares" on campus over the last year or so and the administration is requiring everyone to attend an emergency preparedness/mass evacuation seminar.

Incidentally, I'm scheduled to attend that seminar on Monday.

Mitch said...

Thanks for the article about your experiences with the event. I sa the breaking news that night while I was working late. I was going to write, but I wasn't sure. Thanks. The perspective of the locals s hard to get from the fly-by media.
I remember what it was like here in Minneapolis when the 53W bridge collapsed. Very different than how it was covered on the news.
I think you comment about the cop was good in that it showed what it's like without the media. Here during the 35W collapse, the media was pushing in ans asking questions, when really a lot of us, when the topic came up, would just say "I drove across it every week and now it's gone" then silence. It is that quiet reflection, that sitting together and accepting it that is lost on the news.

Thanks,
- Mitch

U "R" Us said...

Ugh. That's really quite horrible. I had heard something about this but tend to tune these shooting events out as they unfortunately seem to happen with such regularity I can't devote much of an emotional reaction to any of them. Really nice reportage on your part though.

Pat said...

Oh, I'm so sorry that your city experienced this happening. I heard about it on the TV news but thought I didn't know anyone there and it now has turned out that your blog is all about it. I've found the various photos you've posted very interesting to see. Thanks so much and my deepest sympathy to you, your council members, the mayor and your whole city! {{{{{HUGS}}}}}

Pat

Guelph Daily Photo, My Photos.

Ex-Shammickite said...

Sad sad sad sad
The only purpose for owning a gun is to kill people.
And the guns are certainly being put to good use, not only in USA, but even here in Toronto.... where it used to be safe to walk the streets at night. But not any more.

Sad sad sad sad

Petrea said...

We've been following the story from California. Too many stories like this these days.

I understand Bob's point, but the operative words there are "trained" and "qualified." A room full of panicked people with guns could have made this tragedy even worse.

We're fortunate we live in a country where we can discuss these things openly. We ought to be able to do it without fearing for our lives.