Hardly a day goes by that we aren't bombarded with horrific headlines about some violent act in America. In fact, we need not talk about America because right here in Indianapolis, we get horrific headlines of violence everyday. They read like this: 2 people fatally shot on the west side of Indianapolis. Just breaking, a man and woman found dead in what appears to be a murder-suicide. And then there are those violent acts that are so cold and callous and unimaginable that they require a name of their own. And the mere mention of the name brings back a flood of the grisly details. For instance, if you've lived in Indianapolis for a long time and someone brings up “the Hovey Street Murders,” you remember that on January 14, 2008, two armed men broke into a house in the 3200 block of Hovey Street looking for money and marijuana. You'll recall that instead they found two young women, both 24 years old, hiding and clinging to their babies, pleading for their lives before they were all shot to death. Just this past week, on February 6, 2020, Indianapolis made national news when the headline of USA Today read, “This is pure evil: Indianapolis shooting leaves 4 people dead; investigation underway.” The sad part is that in this day and age, violence has become so commonplace, if we're totally honest, such stories barely register anymore. We listen and then go back to making breakfast or whatever else needs to be done. We keep it moving. It's not that we don't care it's just that after a “gazillion” mass shootings, we make adjustments and normalize violence. Or as my Auntie JoAnne would put it, “shit happens” and life moves on. Part of the reason we keep it moving is because generally speaking, the violence is always happening to someone else. Someone else's family. Someone else's best friend. Until it isn't… sometimes the headlines hit home.
The morning of January 25, 2020, I woke up to this text message, “Hey frat call me your sands and brother Greg Baby G was shot and killed last night call me.” First shock. Then disbelief. Then I read the text message over and over again to make sure that I was reading it right. Then an immediate call to my frat brother, who doesn't bother to answer the phone. Then I'm pissed off at him for even texting me such a thing. We're not teenagers after all, we're mature men, with me having just celebrated my 51st trip around the sun. I reasoned that there “had to have been a mistake.” No way one of my closest friends and brother could be gone. Then I got a call from a mutual friend, who my dearly departed brother and I both considered to be our sister. I answered and all I could hear is crying, mixed with her own shock and disbelief and the news that indeed, my brother had been shot to death in a cigar bar in Illinois. In the hours that followed, it became national news because he was an Illinois State policeman and the bizarre details. He and friends were having drinks and cigars at one of his favorite spots in Lisle, Illinois when a woman who they all knew, walked up from behind him and shot him in the head and shot two men that were with him and then turned the gun on herself. My friend died, the woman died but the other two men who happened to be Illinois State policemen survived. My brother had just retired in May 2019 after serving 25 years on the mean streets of Chicago as a State police officer only to be shot to death surrounded by friends doing something he loved. The irony of it all cannot be understated.
I talked earlier about how we encounter horrific headlines and keep it moving. As you can imagine, this “hit differently” because this was a man who was my college roommate, my fraternity brother, friend and my brother period. We shared so many laughs and memories over the years and now the headline wasn't about some stranger. It wasn't about someone out there but someone that was near and dear to me, who will forever be etched in my heart, mind and memories. I wish I had some sage advice to share. I wish I had a clever quote to pass along about death and dying. I wish that I could tell you about how I found a way to grieve and get on with life. But the truth is at times, I'm still stuck and at other times, I still can't believe he's gone and I start to send a text or pick up the phone and remember that those days are gone forever. Sometimes the headlines hit home.
p.s. If you or a loved one is dealing with grief or loss of a loved one, here are a few places that might be able to help: Legacy House, 2505 N. Arlington Avenue, Indianapolis, IN (317) 554.5272. Brookes Place, 8935 N. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN (317) 705.9650.
p.p.s. Because the woman that killed my brother also committed suicide there is only so much closure to be had here. However, if you have information that could help a family gain closure in Indianapolis please call Crime Stoppers at (317) 262.8477.