A World of Speculation

If the shooting was at 10:15, and I got to the campus at 11, then we parents must have been standing in the rain for an hour and a half or two hours before they opened a lecture room and let us sit down.

Every once in a while, an administrator would come to the podium, looking shell-shocked and dazed, and say something about how devastated they all were. There would always be at least one voice, a man on the verge of tears, telling her — the administrator always seemed to be a “her,” but never the same one — to shove it. He wanted answers.

Of course we all wanted answers. The administrators, too. But there were no answers.

There were plenty of rumors. The shooter was a student. The shooter was from off campus. The shooter was angry about a romance gone bad. The shooter had a pistol. The shooter had a rifle. The shooter killed himself. The shooter tried to kill himself and failed. The shooter had been killed by an off-duty police officer. The shooter — this one was greeted with derision — was a woman.

One administrator came in with a clipboard and an assistant and told us we could sign up for information. If they found anything about our loved one, they would know where to reach us.

We all lined up to write our names and the name of the child we were waiting for. When I got to it, the list was worn with much handling and some of teh ink was blotched with tears.

Over the hours, the lecture room had filled up. There were nearly a hundred parents waiting — waiting for bad news about five kids and good news about all the rest.

So it didn’t take long for it to register that Mr. and Mrs. John Smith were waiting in the lecture hall to hear about Johnny, while Johnny was frantically calling both of their cells and the home number. When the word came, Mr. and Mrs. John Smith would be called to the front, like winning contestants in a game show. There would be a whispered conversation, and and little cry of relief, and they would be led through a back door while the rest of us waited and watched.

When the call came for Claire Davidson, I hardly recognized it. Angela did. When the assistant asked, “Is Claire Davidson still here?” she gave me a little shove with her shoulder, and the significane of my name registered, and I sprang to my feet and hurried to the stage.

The whispered conversation was short. I said, “Claire Davidson,” and after a brief, unreadable look, the assistant pointed to a side door where two men in dark suits stood. They gave me no indication that I could give the little cry of joy.

I looked back at Angela, but she looked through me, her long hair still trailing water and her eyes looking into the distance beyond the stage.

I walked out the door and into the empty hallway behind the two stern men in dark suits.