Christmas Eve.

In case anyone missed me, I went home to the suburbs of Rochester, N.Y., for a couple days with the family. I neglected to cue anything up for my absence, and was having too much fun to take time to write.

I got up this morning to another horrifying news story, this one close to home: A gunman in the next town over killed two volunteer firefighters and wounded two others after intentionally starting a fire that destroyed several houses. The gunman apparently killed himself, as well.

I could probably have gotten to Lake Road in Webster, where the shootings happened, in 20 minutes from my parents’ house. I know this because this past January, gripped by a random desire to go see the lake, I did just that. In my younger days, I used to go to that neighborhood for high-school cross-country meets at Webster Park, too.

I stared at Twitter for a couple of minutes, trying to think of how to share this vitally important personal connection with the world — including my Lehigh Valley Twitter pals who had heard about the story and were already talking about it.

But I kept my mouth shut, for the following reasons:

1. No one cares whether I have any kind of tenuous personal connection to current events.

2. I have no context to add that would help anyone understand why some asshole (sorry, Ma) would take potshots at volunteer firefighters on Christmas Eve morning.

3. First-person stories are overrated. In the past two weeks I’ve read the “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” column (from the mother of a teenager prone to psychotic spells) …
… another column about how autism does not correlate to violence, from a mom using her gentle autistic son as first-person evidence …
… and a blog post from a local journalist I respect, who used to buy records  years ago at a store in Newtown, Conn., and asked readers to spare some prayers for a place that “used to be my backyard.”

I know that sometimes personal tales beg to be told; and the ones I list above all came with good intentions and useful messages.

But the presence of Mother No. 2’s gentle autistic son is a single anecdotal story; it is not in itself an argument against linking autism and violence. (I couldn’t agree more with the conclusion. I just think that any specific example deserves one sentence, tops.)

And the local journo’s time spent in Newtown 20 years ago does not add anything to the appalling nature of the shootings there. My feelings about the event are unaffected by anyone’s peripheral personal experiences. (I would suggest that Newtown is everyone’s back yard now, regardless of whether you’ve ever actually driven through it.)

Similarly, I do not expect that anyone who knows me will feel any differently about the Webster shootings, or have any deeper understanding of what went on, because of my limited connection to the town.

It’s just another event that reminds us that senseless violence and stupidity can happen anywhere, anytime … even to volunteer public servants doing their jobs in a nice neighborhood the day before Christmas.

Where next, I wonder?

# # # # #

I was going to try to end this on a more uplifting note … oh, yeah, I remember now.

We got a nice storm the night I arrived in Rochester. Not a life-disrupting lake-effect snow bomb; just maybe three or four inches overnight to cover everything in white. I went running in the first cold flakes, and shoveled the driveway the next day with my dad and older brother, and felt rootsy and connected and at home.

We also took my kids to our family’s longtime sledding hill of choice. The day was windy and the snow cover a little shallow, but fun was still had by all.

I brought my point-and-shoot (Kodak, natch) … and while I was taking a couple runs down the hill, I shot video.

Perhaps the sight of a grown man kicking up his heels and taking to the bunny slope will add a little cheer to somebody’s Christmas.

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