This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I've seen a lot of terrible stuff in my life, things I'll never be able to un-see for the simple reason that they insist on periodically revisiting me while I'm asleep.
Decomposed bodies, suicides, murders, traffic carnage, rapes and industrial accidents, if I'm lucky. Crimes against children if I'm not, including some so terrible that at the time I seriously believed the only way to set things right was to become a murderer myself.
If you aren't an ER nurse, a paramedic, cop, fire/rescue, or a combat veteran, it might be hard to imagine this sort of stuff as regular fare. Count yourself lucky.
As much as these experiences changed me and perhaps continue to do so I'm fortunate in that they didn't happen TO me. I don't know that I would have the inner strength to cope effectively .
Still, I know that it's possible. I've seen other people do it, people whom I've learned are far stronger than I might be if the horrifying ever pays me a personal visit.
Ten years ago today, a lone gunman murdered five people and seriously wounded four others at Trolley Square.
On that appalling evening, AJ Walker's father, Alan, was killed. AJ was shot in the head and critically wounded. Stacy Hanson was shot three times with a 12-gauge shotgun. He survived because well, I don't know why.
If I had to, I'd guess it was because of the police officers who intervened and killed the suspect, allowing highly trained medical personnel to reach and stabilize him enough to deliver him into the hands of surgeons at the hospital.
A few days later, Stacy's wife ignored requests from the real media and chose a fool of a columnist to tell his story. Honestly, I didn't want to. The last thing I needed was more terrible images in my head.
I did it because Colleen said I made her husband laugh and she desperately needed to see Stacy at least smile again.
In a similar fashion, I met teenage A.J. and his recently widowed mother, Vickie. A.J. still had pellets in his head, and Vickie still mourned for Alan.
I expected bitterness. I didn't get it.
The Walkers' behavior confused me at first. Instead of wallowing in their loss the way I might have, they kept turning the conversation to the more positive elements of their shattered new life.
A.J. was still determined to be a normal teenager and eventually serve an LDS mission. Vickie already had plans to organize programs to help the victims of violence.
I stay in touch with the Hansons and the Walkers. I need to. The courage they brought to bear against the worst moment in their lives is an inspiration to anyone who knows them.
That's not to say that every day isn't a fight. Some things that happen to us are so terrible they never stop happening. Our nightmares are proof of that.
There's no explanation that makes sense of what happened in Trolley Square that night. It's the days, months and years since then that matter now, the willingness to fight what happened and to move forward.
In that sense, Stacy and A.J. have helped me more than they know. When my own nightmares occasionally tear me from sleep, it's thoughts of their courage today that bring back enough hope for my own life that I can eventually go back to sleep.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.