Friday, July 24, 2015

We are all connected, but some are a little more connected than others

“Six Degrees of Separation” original artwork by Daniel Walker, 2010, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Some people say that every person in the world is connected to every other person in the world by not more than six degrees of separation. I have no idea whether this theory is true, but I do know one thing.

Sometimes six degrees are far more than are necessary.

It has been a sad week hereabouts. One of the five American servicemen shot and killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on July 16th -- surely you heard about it even in other countries -- was a local boy. The local radio and television stations have been reporting almost non-stop since the moment he was identified as one of the victims. It’s safe to say that the entire region has been affected and we all share in his family’s sorrow. Most, of course, do not know the family personally.

We did.

Lance Corporal Squire K. “Skip” Wells of the United States Marine Corps was 21 years old at the time of his death. He graduated in 2012 from the same high school that my three children attended back in the 1980s. His mother, Cathy, was a classmate of our three children at the same school. They were all members of the school’s marching band. Mrs. RWP and I worked alongside Cathy’s mother (Skip’s grandmother) raising money for the Band Boosters Club. When my daughter decided to attend a university about a hundred miles away from home, her first roommate there was Cathy, who was in her second year there.

Corporal Skip Wells’s body was returned to a local funeral home yesterday. Many people stood waving flags on bridges and lined the streets between the airport and the funeral home. His funeral service will be held on Sunday afternoon at the largest church in the area; it can seat seven or eight thousand, I think, and it will probably be full. A public memorial service was held on Tuesday evening at his high school’s football stadium; it was reportedly attended by over five thousand people.

Sadly, the same sorts of events are taking place for the four other military men who lost their lives in the senseless attack. The people of Chattanooga have been hit especially hard.

This is not the first time in my life that we have had a personal connection to a major event.

The brother of a woman we have known for 40 years was killed in the World Trade Center attack in New York City on September 11, 2001.

I hope you can maintain emotional and physical distance from violent events in our world. For some, like Mrs. RWP and me this week, they sometimes come just a little too close.


  1. Mary Z, a reader who lives in Chattanooga, tried to leave a comment on this post earlier but I had put it back in draft status to make some changes. She left her comment on my previous post ("If I should die before I wake") instead, but I think it deserves to be on this post and have duplicated it below:

    Mary Z said...

    I can't seem to get to your page for today's post (24 July) to leave a comment. I was able to read it on my Feedly page. In any case, my sympathy to you, yours, and certainly the family of Skip Wells. It's been a horrible week here in Chattanooga. The first of the fallen was buried in the National Cemetery here today, with a huge local presence. I don't know when Corporal Wells' services will be. Petty Officer Randall Smith lived in North Georgia, and his services will be Tuesday - with burial also in the National Cemetery. It'll be a long time until Chattanooga returns to anything like normal. But we are "Chattanooga Strong", as we honor the fallen.

    July 24, 2015 at 7:11 PM

  2. Emotional distance... Vs. empathy. I still struggle with maintaining a balance. Sorry to hear you've both been close to such a sad event and loss, Robert.

  3. My heart goes out to the friends and family of Skip Wells. President Obama says that the main disappointment of his presidency is that he has been prevented from bringing in effective gun control laws. How many more American citizens have to die at the hands of evil nutcases like Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez or Dylann Roof before there is a sea change in the country's attitude towards the bearing of arms?

  4. We hadn't heard of this terrible event. Our news tends to be very selective with its subjects. I feel for his family, and for you and yours who also knew him. I think it is often the case that distance, and lack of connection makes people numb to the terrible events and killings that happen across the planet from them. I do my best to put myself in the position of the loved ones left behind, because they could have been my friend, my neighbour, my family, and their lives are no less important because they weren't. So young. And I'm so sorry to hear about it. With love, Michelle. X

  5. RWP, I'm so sorry to know that you and your family are hurting in this loss. It's interesting to note that I cannot tell you the names of any of the other young men killed in that attack, but this one stuck with me. When the news first showed their photos and names, I saw that impressive moniker, "Squire K. Wells" and I thought how appropriate it seemed for him. He had such bearing and dignity, (as Marines often do). And I immediately wondered what his nickname was ~ I knew he had to have one! Then the newscaster said, "Skip" and then I pictured a little boy, and young man that a family and community was now missing. Somehow his name captured my attention, and his nickname made him "real". He has been in my thoughts, and without knowing it, I have been praying for you, too.

  6. "I hope you can maintain emotional and physical distance from violent events in our world."

    I wish. I saw a news video two days ago--on CBS, I think--in which little Islamic State boys were shooting people in the head. They couldn't have been more than ten or twelve. It was a bad day for me to see that, not that there would ever be a good day, but that some days are worse than others. For inspiration, do you know of the WWII conscientious objector who became an honored medic although he never carried a gun? I thought of you when I saw the video because he lives in Rising Fawn, which is in Georgia but near Chattanooga. Maybe you know if it. I do because I have relatives near there, not that I'm likely to ever see them again: