Friday, May 13, 2011

May 13, 1981

Thirty years ago today.

I was a Senior in a public High School of 2500 students. We were weeks away from graduation.

It was early in the afternoon, I think. What was on my mind? I don't remember. But I was walking down the hallway. I can see that hallway right now in my memory. In living color like I'm walking down it right now. I was coming up to a classroom door. Was I about to go in? I don't remember.

One of my fellow Catholic students came up to me, ashen-faced, and said, "Did you hear, the Pope has been shot."

It was like she had said something in Chinese. For a moment, my brain simply could not put the words together. Then I thought, "What?"

The Pope had been shot.

Was he dead? Was he dying? All I remember was a numbness.

And our secular, American public school came to a stop. They sent us all to our home rooms, where there were TVs. And we watched, stunned: Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Agnostics, potheads, jocks, nerds, blacks, whites, honor students, deadbeats, drama club kids, orchestra kids, Student United Nations kids, newspaper staff kids, all kinds of kids--the large collection of public school humanity united by some mysterious thing. We all felt something strangely in common in those moments. It's the only thing I can remember that ever brought us together in that way.

And everyone said to me, "I'm so sorry...." As if someone had shot my father.

And they were right. Someone had shot my father.

May 13, 1981. History held it's breath. The TV vigil continued at home. The earth prayed.

But Blessed John Paul II lived. He lived to change the world. He lived to be God's instrument to change our hearts. A loving maternal hand guided that bullet.