The story leaves me stunned even today.
It involves a good friend from my high school days, whose name made the news around the nation late last week. But I will not have the same reaction as many others. For I knew who the victim was, and what he believed in.
I met Mark McCalla some 34 years ago in a study hall when we were sophomores in high school. We kept in touch on and off since graduation 30 years ago this month. Mark and I had exchanged emails in a flurry over a period of days last weekend because he was planning to be back in Columbus to see his mom and dad for Father's Day. I half expected him to knock on my door that day after a bike ride took him through my neighborhood.
I never heard from him and I never will again.
On Friday, I received the sad news that my friend, Pastor Mark McCalla, just hours after serving breakfast to more than 150 young people at a church camp sponsored by his Highlawn Presbyterian Church, had been brutally murdered.
Killed with a single gunshot to the head, his body was dragged some 100 feet away from where he was shot, and dumped in the brush in West Virginia's Beech Fork State Park. The sheriff says there is no question it was a homicide. He is speculating that Mark may have been the victim of a robbery as his wallet is missing. Two of Mark's firearms are missing.
The church community is stunned. The people in the area in which he lived are stunned. My classmates and I from high school are stunned. In fact, Mark had been badgering me about my lack of interest in attending a reunion next month.
He hunted when I knew him 30 years ago. The incident took place at the state park rifle range, a place Mark visited often. He was an avid outdoorsman who had bicycled competitively in the U.S. and Europe, and had taught kayaking at Marshall University. He still loved to jump on a bike or paddle a rough river.
He was a family man, a pastor who loved his job. He loved his four kids. His son, Ben, has been keeping Mark's friends back in Columbus informed about what is going on with memorial services. I knew Mark as someone who had the gift of gab. He could talk about anything. His friends at Highlawn Presbyterian say he had a way of weaving different ideas in a dynamic way to make a point, rather than just simply preach. He didn't just lecture, he taught.
Yes, I can say I have now been touched by "gun violence." That is such a trite phrase. Do you know what "trite" means? Among other definitions, it means "hackneyed," and "stale." Here is the best one: "lacking in freshness or effectiveness because of constant use or excessive repetition." THAT describes this tired, overused, meaningless two-word phrase better than any other definition.
It is bandied about by gun control extremists and apparently sympathetic "victims" more than anyone else. But they say it hoping that the public will feel empathy. Yet, both the antis and the uninformed public, or the general public for that matter, would think it odd to use a phrase such as "knife violence," or "baseball bat violence," or "fist violence." But we don't, do we?
This phrase is most often trotted out to advocate more draconian restrictions -- not on criminals -- but on an inanimate object.
And yet, despite my devastation at the loss of a classmate, a good man, a good parent, a man of God, I do not blame the gun. I worry for his wife, his parents, and his children. I worry for his parents, who have lost a child. I wonder if they will blame the gun -- instead of blaming the violent scum who preyed upon an individual who spent the past 30 years "helping" people. Helping friends and strangers, alike.
I want criminals hauled in and punished, just like anyone else. In a case like this, perhaps I want the guilty party or parties brutally punished . . . I don't know for sure what I think. I'm still numb . . .
A man is dead.
Today, there is a debate over whether lethal injection should be abolished. It is "inhumane," people say. I don't know where Mark was on the death penalty. I supported it for decades, but have had reservations recently -- mostly because DNA testing is proving that a lot of people on Death Row do not belong there.
But for Mark's killers, I think, a firing squad is in order.
Just my personal opinion, in the heat of the moment, after having been touched by violence (gun or otherwise).
For what it's worth . . .
22 June 2008
The story leaves me stunned even today.
Posted by Brent Greer at 6:41 PM