December 6, 2007

The Sober Results of Tragedy.

I just don’t understand.

I don’t understand why the world spins the way it does.

Yesterday, Omaha witnessed the worst mass killing in the city’s history. It took place in the most public of places…in a building that thousands of residents and suburbanites have visited…many within the past couple of days. After watching the events transpire last night, I couldn’t help but think of the random brutality that usually only happens on TV or inside my computer monitor.

This morning, I drove on Dodge Street past Westroads mall, just as I do nearly every day…and noticed the fleet of squad cars…the TV satellite trucks and of course the mobile command center parked directly in front of the steps I’ve traveled dozens upon dozens of times. It’s one of those things that you take completely and totally for granted….your safety. No matter how long I live…no matter how much water has washed under the bridge, I will never pass that mall and think of anything else.

When you run a blog like this, you fulling expect to get flack and then some. I expect that not everybody will understand just why I say the things I do in this very webspace, just as I fully expect to be second-guessed and even ridiculed. I expect many of you to get mad. I expect many of you lose your cool and fire off four-letter tirades at the guy who is disrespecting your fellow fans and your way of life. I get it. I understand it. I cause it many times for my own amusement.

But during times like these…I beg you to realize something. The one thing you need to understand is the separation between sports banter and real life.

Sports is an outlet…a hobby…an activity. Following sports…talking about sports…is something that people do to distract themselves from the monotony of everyday life. I understand that. I believe in that. Hell, I’ve been accused of single-handedly causing Missouri and Nebraska fans to hate each other. But events like Wednesday’s make you realize..or SHOULD make you realize…just how small and insignificant sports are in the grand scheme of life.

Despite what you may think, I love Omaha. I care about Omaha. A large majority of the people I love and hold most dear live in Omaha. When something like this happens, things like new coaches or BCS bowls or border rivalries or whatever may get you fired up means absolutely nothing. In moments like this, the only things that matter are the safety of your family, and supporting those around you who have been affected…either directly or indirectly by this tragedy.

I’m sorry that many of you have false impressions about me. I’m sorry you feel that a few weekly ramblings directed at nobody in particular made in partial jest falsely paint the full portrait of how I feel. It’s unfortunate that it takes a tragedy of this magnitude for me to remind you of that.

Despite those misnomers, we…as a community…are all in this together. We live together. We work together…and in this case…we grieve and suffer together.

I’m so sorry to those who were affected by this. I feel sick to my stomach, thinking of the loved ones who will never again see their family members. It’s jarring to think of how you would feel if you lost somebody very close to you, for simply no other reason that they went to work or went shopping for Christmas gifts. My wife worked at a store inside Westroads for many many years. It’s simply a matter of luck and destiny that our lives were not effected in the same horrible manner that many others were…both those killed…and those who will never be the same after hiding for their lives while a killer was loose.

With some already complaining that the “attention” has been “too much”, it’s obvious that time will force us to move on soon. Eventually, that secure feeling will return. Eventually, the mental images of people streaming out of Von Maur with their hands up will become a memory. Soon we will talk about sports. I will continue to say things to make you angry. You will continue to counter with comments or inner-anger.

But please let this be a reminder that we are all in this together. (Even those of you reading this who do not call Omaha home) Despite our differences, despite our backgrounds, we all share a common bond.

Hug your family tonight…tightly for an hour if you have to. Never ever take them for granted and never ever be dumb enough to think that this or events like it can’t happen to you. And above all else, please keep those most affected by these events in your thoughts or prayers. In times of need, we only have each other to lean on.


Oh and one more thing. If you are so inclined…please turn emotions into actions and help your community. Despite the politics surrounding this horrible event, there are still things you can do to at least give kids in trouble throughout our area a fighting chance.

Youth Emergency Services in Omaha specializes in assisting homeless and neglected kids in our city. They provide everything from coats and blankets to counseling services for kids who have nowhere else to go. This is one of my favorite local charities, and I invite you to contribute to their cause in whatever way you can. In hindsight, we can not say if such programs would have stopped the events of yesterday. But these problems are very real, very local and they're here every day. God bless those who give their time and effort into such causes.

Information on YESOmaha can be found on their website here.

No matter what your race, religion, financial status or moral upbringing...there are several other outstanding programs assisting the youth of our community. They include:

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Midlands ( link )

Teammates mentoring program. ( link )

Boys and Girls Club of Omaha ( link)


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great post by a smart, intelligent, and yes, funny host! This is one reason why this Husker fan likes to drop by. We may support different teams, but we both realize that there are bigger things in life.
God bless you!

Columbia, MO

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AJ - well done; very well stated. I pray that all of us (meaning human beings, fellow americans, etc.) are reminded of the fragility of life and the importance of loving our fellow man, our neighbor, our families and friends and even our enemies (and yes...this includes loving AJ as well).

I love Nebraska football...I love to argue back and forth with other FANatics, but that all pales in comparison to my love of my family. Nothing is better than returning home after a very long day of work to my wife and kids; my 5 year old son running from wherever he is in the house to give me a hug and ask if we can wrestle a bit before I give him a piggy back ride to bed.

It is tragic that so many families, during a celebratory time of year for many, are now faced with the terrible reality of lost loved ones and/or emotionally traumatized friends/relatives.

As I knelt with my famly in prayer last night, it pained my soul to think what those affected must feel and I was overcome with gratitude for the safety and health of my own family.

I pray God's comfort and blesings on us all.

JH (James)

2:46 PM  
Blogger AJ said...

Hey OH, I got your message and respect your request.

Thank you.

Thanks to the others who have stopped by today as well.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think you're a complete ass, but I have to admit that you are far better than any writer at the World Herald.

Thank you for writing such an excellent column today.

3:04 PM  
Blogger bornred said...


Very nice article. I'm ashamed of those that may have been unable to realize the gravity of this situation and lack the sensitivity to do the right thing and put aside differences over something as insignificant as which team you happen to be a fan of. For all of you in the Omaha area or that have family there as I do, my thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Take care all.


3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former Nebraskan, CU alum, and now Littleton CO resident. I now live across the street from Columbine H.S. we can all remember that day, but after awhile, the building has become just another high school that I witness ghoulish out-of-towners stopping in front of to have their photos taken in the summer on a daily basis. It sickens me to no end. Honking and fingers usually shoo them off.

Yesterday I was shaken to my very core as news came out on the national level, and Denver's local level. I made so many calls last night to friends and loved ones not to razz them about their team, but to check on them, even though I knew that some of them would have been nowhere near Westroads. The disbelief of knowing that a place I too have walked into and out of so many times before, a place where we have all felt secure, and safe, was never going to be again. My brain is honestly having a hard time putting this into perspective. I hope and pray that those families regardless of what team they're fans of are going to make it through the night, I cannot fathom the fact that their time of joy this time of year is forever ruined, and somewhat worthless.
I am not able to join any of you, or my friends or family members who are affected by this in healing, but my thoughts and prayers are, and will always be with you.
It only takes a moment for our lives to change for an eternity.

Dr. Buffenstien.

3:58 PM  
Anonymous DT said...

My heart and prayers go out to all of the victims of this tragedy.

My mother is an Omaha native and I have a great many family members there who have been in touch all of yesterday and today. One of the victims went to Creighton Prep with one of my uncles and they still met regularly for breakfast.
Such a horrible story that really puts our petty differences in perspective. With all of the inflammatory writing that goes on around here, sometimes it's hard for all of us to keep that necessary perspective. Here you do a nice job of restoring it.

Thank you AJ.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for mentioning YES as well. Truly this is one of those groups that normally one doesn't know about unless you've done work for them, or have been helped by them.
Truly I am sure that they still need help, and this is the first year we have not helped them by working for them, so money helps them if you do not have the time to help yourself.

Dr. Buffenstien.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish the news organizations would learn from this that the last thing they should do is give headline coverage of the killers. I don't want to know the names of the idiots from Columbine. I wish the punk from Virginia Tech died an unknown. And yes, this kid in Omaha "I'll be famous."

Cover the tragedy. Cover the human story and the loss. Tell us it was a hard-luck loser who couldn't cope. Just don't tell us his name. Don't show us his picture. Certainly don't show a picture the portrays some sort of power in the incident (e.g. the VTech scumbag with his guns).

Sadly, the only thing this kid wanted in his life was attention and he was willing to give up his life to get it. Show the guy out there who could be next that he may not get what he wants. Sadly the media will not learn from this. They will sell out for the money they get from telling the "full story".

Saint Louis, MO

6:52 PM  
Blogger AJ said...

Tim, DT and Randy...thanks for the kind words.

Dr. Buff, I once worked with a band during a fundraiser for YES. It was then that I learned the in credible and tireless work that they do...for some a group of people who are most vulnerable.

They are truly a wonderful organization, and I hope others find this opportunity to keep them in mind when donating time or money.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My story is like many others...

I was at Westroads Wednesday, parked in Von Maur, and received a phone call from my boss that I needed to come back to cover for a guy that had called out. I had to be there to be there by 2p, and it was 1:30p. Needless to say, I walked out of Von Maur at 1:30 and headed to work.

Crazy. I'm from St. Louis and lived there for most of my 25yrs. I've seen violence, yet, this one really got to me. Maybe it's because everyone else is in shock. I've never been that close to such a horrific tragedy like that.

When I told my boss that he possibly saved me from being in Von Maur, the look on his face was something I'll never forget.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Husker fan here who reads this blog because you crack me up...While you've had some great blog entries in the past, this one is your best.

I don't think any of us could've said it any better.

Thank you...

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Buffenstein

You and I must be neighbors. I live in the same neighborhood. Perhaps I will see you out on the links of Racoon Creek some day.

I was driving home from DIA when Columbine happened. I was listening to KOA. When I heard the news yesterday about what happened, I had a sick feeling in my stomach reliving what happened in 1999. I love to joke & kid with my Nebraska work friends who in turn kid me about Mizzou, but, this is only sports. My thoughts and prayers do go out to the good people of Nebraska-they truly are good people.

Michael in Littleton CO

12:42 AM  
Blogger Husker4Yankees said...


Thanks brother, I needed that.

8:10 AM  
Blogger PlusDrew said...

Thanks so much for that wonderful article, AJ. Despite our disagreements, you never hesitate to remind me why I visit this blog regularly. I worked at Westroads for a few years back early in my college days (2000-2001) and it's absolutely mindbending to think about something like this happening there. I just can't think about it. I don't live in Omaha anymore, so I don't have that visceral image of driving past with all of the police and ambulances.

Anyways, thanks. I'll always remember that even when you're being a bad guy, that you're one of the good guys.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Good job, my feelings are just the same.

My prayers are for the victoms, and all of their families and friends.


11:50 AM  
Anonymous said...


I read your column. I do not always agree but I like the bantering and find your perspectives quite interesting.

I thank you for taking the time to pay tribute to this local tragedy. It is a wake up call to all of us and what we should be thankful for and not take things and life for granted.

I have a new profound respect for you. I will still get a little hot under the hood. That is what is great about America you can say what you want!

My respect is there for you and thank you for this great commentary.

Lincoln, NE

7:43 AM  

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