1:50 PM, December 5, 2007.
It is a busy mall in Omaha, Nebraska.
Shoppers are everywhere. Bundled up, it’s cold. After all, it is early December and this is the Midwest–the place where American dreams can come true. Christmas 2007 is no exception. Christmas wishes are abundant this year. You can see that on the faces of the innocent as they scurry from store to store. The hustle and bustle is as much a seasonal tradition as hanging a wreath on the front door.
You’re thinking about your holiday to do list.
I’ve got to shop for Uncle Ned. What in the world would he want?
Daddy’s business partner needs a gift.
OK, I took care of Mom’s present this morning.
And oh yes, I can’t forget cousin Mike. Oh, look at these sweaters. My brother in law might one of these, too!
You pick one up as shots ring out. Your concentration is broken. What’s happening?
You look to your left and a shopper is lying motionless on the floor. A diffluent pool of crimson is forming underneath him.
Your survival instincts take over. You dive under a table of sweaters that only five seconds earlier, you were contemplating buying as gifts. More shots are fired. More people are shot. One falls down…then another. There is blood and mayhem amid the screams and Christmas music playing in the store.
It is surreal.
More shots. BANG! BANG! BANG! Then denial takes over. For a few brief moments in the chaos that has become your life, you wonder if you left the iron on at home.
Then, with more gunshots comes the horrible reality.
You’re hiding under a table at a mall, while shots are being randomly fired beside you, above you.
The answer to your question is an anonymous, 20-year-old man.
Robert Hawkins was a sad throw away kid really, who spent the last year separated from his family thanks to issues with his step mother. And as if that wasn’t enough to push him over the edge, he was also nursing other significant wounds. He lost his girlfriend not long after he lost his job.
He also had a minor police record.
He was in his opinion, “a nothing” in life. Sadly, that was also what he believed others thought about him. So, he wanted to correct that in his death and he would punctuate that with a gesture that in this day and age, is unremarkably heinous. He picked up an assault rifle and like so many others who find themselves backed in to a miasmal corner of their own making, he went to a place where people gather–in this case a crowded shopping mall in suburban Omaha and went out in a blaze of narcissistic glory. Or so he thought. Robert Hawkins accomplished one thing: this “grandiose ending” he envisioned had the death toll he wanted. When the smoke cleared, eight were and five were wounded before he killed himself.
And when he placed the gun to his head and fired, really—what exactly did that do?
It simply meant the shooting stopped.
For the time being anyway.
We’ve learned over the years that in this very damaged society of walking wounded, there are few ceasefires. The guns remain silent only until some other demented fool decides to end it all and take others with him.
That’s why I won’t pity Robert Hawkins. I don’t doubt the legitimacy of his deep seeded issues. That’s obvious. But how and why it prompted him to make 14-people symptoms of his illness is for psychiatrists and behaviorists to debate. I want to address what Robert Hawkins left in his wake…
How dare he. That’s all I can say.
How dare he? That’s all I can ask.
Robert Hawkins stole Christmas, by robbing people of their loved ones. His shooting spree and suicide didn’t end his misery; he created it for others.
Can this holiday EVER be the same for those who survived? For those people whose friends and family members were killed? The wounded? And what about Hawkins’ own family? Contrary to what he may have believed, surely there were those who cared about him.
Does it matter now? Can we even ask that after the fact? Robert Hawkins’ Wikipedia entry is now complete. Where his sad, tawdry life ends, sorrow and grieving begins.
And that’s why December 5, 2007 now lives in infamy. For many Omaha residents, Christmas could be forever associated with bloodshed.
Tears and tinsel.
How very senseless.
With memories of Columbine and the incident involving the Amish schoolhouse and of course, Virginia Tech still fresh in our memories, we ask why? How did it happen again? We shake our heads in shocked dismay. Will enough ever be enough?
Our pain and disbelief are palpable.
Today, America’s Heartland is in mourning.
For the second time this year, America’s heart is broken.
Merry Christmas, Omaha. I wish you tidings of comfort….and joy.
I pray you’ll soon find both.