My name is Michael Konner and I'm just an average building engineer who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. My son, Mike, jr. , fifteen, is an excellent high school student. He's a typical son, to my eyes. We have a good relationship. I value that. He's typical, but beautiful. His mother can't get enough of him, so much so that I have had to yell at her for too much pampering. I'm a bit of a roughy-toughy type and I can't bear the thought of her rubbing those feminine qualities off on him. My corporate building always needs my fixing and my presence. My father drilled plumbing and repairs into me as a young boy, and I never forgot a thing he showed me. I could fix pipes in my sleep, and so could he. There are other things I'm useful for.
Mike, jr. looks just like me, long black hair with a baby face. He enjoys his sports and that's fine with me. This story is about him. This is April 2006. He finds this block somewhat boring, but I don't want to move to a more energized area in case some of the neighbors' dirty doings disturb the calm of the family. I told dad that, unlike him, I can only handle one boy. Life is getting too dangerous. I want to see the boy whole. I don't want to miss any of his good qualities, which might happen if my attention was taken by disturbing distractions in the area. Besides, I'm sure he has noticed different types of people, including life's problems, at his high school. He makes friends easily.
Mike, jr. wants to go to college. I have advised him to stay in Maryland, so we could help him more easily. He would be happy in another state. He adjusts to new conditions well. I've tried to teach him to be careful about decisions he makes because some will have a long-lasting influence on the rest of his life. He tells me not to worry. He has a handle on things.
About nine years ago, I took Mike, jr. to the park. I thought it was a good place to spend time with the boy in a fun environment. He liked the swings and other kids' rides. It's a large park with several baseball fields, tennis courts, and numerous walkways. The picnic area is way over in the corner where the gigantic wall blocks off the highway. You can enter at one end and it will take you two hours by the time you navigate all the way over to the other side. Well, almost. Depends where you're going. I knew every inch of the park. There was no picnic for us. We always do the barbecue at home in the backyard.
We went in one of the two main entrances. We were both dressed in jeans and a colorful summer shirt. It was a warm August day that this occurred. I wanted to walk along the winding paths first and then go over to the swings. He loves the go-round ride also. After the fork in the road up further, you reach a wooded area that has a lot of trees and various windings that eventually lead to the playground area. We kept on walking. Mike, jr. stopped occasionally to run over to a squirrel. We saw one cat who ran immediately from the boy when he tried to pick him up. As we were nearing the playground area, maybe about another three minutes walk, I saw Tim Belluche, an old friend, who I hadn't seen in quite a while. He owns a clothing store. He was on the path with his two daughters, Lynn and Mara. His wife had just lost her job. He found her a place in the clothing store. We were glad to see each other. After all, we had spent a lot of time together as teenagers.
"Dad, can I go, go to the swing," Mike jr. asked me while I was engaged in conversation.
"Sure, Mike, go on ahead. I'll b e right there," I said.
Mike continued up the path, and a little further up, some squirrels by a tree caught his attention. Apparently for quite a while. He wanted to keep chasing after them. He told me later that he wanted to hold one. I continued my conversation with Tim. I was confident that the children were safe in the playground.
A few minutes later, we heard several gunshots. A crazed twenty-eight-year-old opened fire on the children in the playground. I felt frightened as I thought of Mike,jr. I began to run toward the playground and bumped into my son who fell to the ground. What a relief to see him away from the shots.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Sounded like a gun, dad," Mike, jr. answered.
The man with a gun had just lost his job at a supermarket and his girlfriend had left him. He went crazy.
My son had further words to relieve my fears. "I didn't go all the way up to the swings. I stopped to play with the squirrels on the grass,' Mike, jr. said.
"Thank God," I exclaimed. The crazed man had fired at the children, wounding several, right near the entrance. Mike, jr. could have walked right into a gunshot.
Needless to say, I was very shaken. It hurts just like the news that a son has died in combat. Why are we in Iraq? Have too many men lost their supermarket jobs?
We continued running further away and caught up with Tim and his two daughters. We hurried on. When we reached the entrance again, we saw several police cars heading toward the playground.
"Thank God, you're alright," Tim said.
"Yes, there but for the grace of God go us," I answered.
An incident like that makes me understand God in a whole new light.
If Mike were killed so haphazardly like that, I wouldn't be thinking today of his college education, which is probably the next most significant step he will take. Nor would he be thinking of me as his loving dad. I'm glad we both have each other to love.
Sometimes disaster strikes and life goes on.