Merry Christmas, Omaha


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.

At you.

“My God!!” you think to yourself. “Who’s trying to kill us?”hawkins.jpg

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…

Shattered lives.

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 tragic.

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.




  1. “…America’s heart is broken.” Four words, says it all.

    Omaha will heal, but we all will bear the scars. We created the culture and environment in which he thought his actions were a legitimate expression of his angst.

    He wanted to be famous, he said. He wanted to be recognized. He believed that was his absolute ‘right,’ simply by virtue of his existence. He did not work to achieve a goal and he did not believe he had to.

    There have been those apologize and excused vicious violence elsewhere, in far away lands. There are those who piously say that sometimes, violence, even against the innocent, while tragic, is understandable. Many paint the most vicious and violent of criminals as ‘heroes’ and statesmen.

    When random and vicious violence is excused and apologized for elsewhere, we ought not be surprised when it shows up on our shores- and we ought not be surprised when the perpetrator sees himself as a long suffering victim and ‘hero.’

    America, 2007.

  2. The fallout from the incidents this year (Trolley Square in SLC, Virginia Tech, Omaha) will land on Capitol Hill, where the Asses and Elephants will play legislative volleyball over the funding of more Mental Heath Services.
    The need is obvious; if there is any country on this planet that needs more psychiatric help it is us.

    Somebody pass me the Kleenex, dammit…

  3. This kid bought and used the same kind of assault rifle that so called hunters use to “hunt” deer and other animals. Thanks NRA. Tell me there isn’t a gun control problem in our country. Tell me that had this kid only had access to a six or nine round hand gun that the damage would have been far less – he likely still would have killed, but without an assault rifle available to any Tom, Dick and Jackass Psycho things would have been very different in Omaha on Wednesday.

  4. Not a gun issue. It’s a matter of respect. Our culture has glorified violence and celebrity to the point that the answers have outrun the questions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if no citizen could bear arms? Please. I guess it would be great if no citizen could speak freely. Let’s face it, thoughts are more dangerous than weapons. It takes a thought coupled with that weapon to make it fire. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. It’s simple. This is what our society breeds now. Talk to me about the last movie you saw. What happened? How old was the youngest in the audience? How impressionable do you believe that person may be? How often do his parents take the time to talk about what is happening in his life? This is the breakdown of the family. If society can’t thrive at the smallest level, how do you expect an entire nation to prosper? The NRA didn’t fail the nation. The nation has failed to prove that such privileges can be responsibly enjoyed. Parents, you are just as responsible as the agencies you blame everything on. I know, it’s easier to blame someone else for the mess you made. If you’re involved, great, get more involved. Respect and responsibility. Look at what we are force feeding our children. Oh, and Politicians, you aren’t setting a good example at all with your incessant bickering. Grow up. Lead our nation. Make our laws. Resolve issues. Do your damn job. Your position is a privilege, not a right. Treat it as such. I’ll be back with more in a minute. Not that you’re listening.

  5. Not a gun issue–it is a person issue. I find it troubling to blame anyone other than Mr. Hawkins for what happened. Sure his life may have had horrible ups and downs–but he will receive no pity from me. As LK says–How dare he rob the joy of this season from a group of fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. Responsibility begins and ends with the brain, eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet God gave you. Don’t tell me it is society–Mr. Hawkins is not society’s responsbility. Don’t tell me its his parents–all parents screw up–none of them are perfect, not even one. Don’t tell me its his childhood or his teachers or his preachers or his friends or lack thereof. I’m sure many people made mistakes with Mr. Hawkins–but he dealt out the actions that resulted in the deaths and heartbreak of numerous people. Mr. Hawkins is to blame. Our job–to care and comfort those left behind, those whose lives were hurt and shattered. America is great at 2 things–blame and assistance. Let’s stick with assistance on this one–if there is a site to donate, donate, if there is an address to send flowers–send them–if you live in Omaha-open your doors to the people that need your help. Don’t pass legislation or interview the state Senator–grieve, assist and then when you can…forgive. Give no glory to Mr. Hawkins–he has not earned it.

  6. Ms. Kendrick, thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings with the rest of us–the deed is too horrible for most of us to get our arms around.

  7. Key–I agree. A sadistic part of me hates it when people like this end a shooting spree with killing themselves because that seems like he got off too easy. The cold-hearted side of me though thinks–well good at least we won’t have to pay some public defender to defend him, then pay for him to sit either in prision forever of on death row for 10-20 years and then pay for his execution which will likely be protested and challenged all the way to the Supreme Court.

    But forgiveness isn’t letting someone off easy–but necessary to move forward.

  8. It’s never a gun issue? Yes, it takes someone to pull the trigger. However, in countries where owning guns is illegal, there were no incidents of people shooting innocent children and mall shoppers and there is no fear of kids being gunned down while having lunch with their moms and dads. These countries still have the weak, the deranged, the perverted and none of them have access to assault rifles to carry out their end game. That’s the difference.

  9. Respect?? There is none.

    You’ll find that even in the elementary schools kids are not being taught that most sacred of all human needs and desires. I noticed years ago while teaching computer labs in elementary schools that a classroom is a small(or large) type of family unit. I have seen wonderful teachers (and not so great ones, too) bring these kids together in wonderful ways. You will always find the loners who won’t or just can’t belong.

    The sad thing about this is that at the end of the school day, these kids have to go home. So many of these homes aren’t good ones. It is the parents who need and by all means should be instilling respect, honor, the ability to win and lose and to make good choices. BUT a huge part of their learning of life skills will take place in the classroom.

    A child, no matter how old, will spend more time with classmates and teachers than he would with his family during the week. I’m not saying that’s the sole responsibility of the school system to rear children, but let’s face it, that may certainly be the only life instructions some kids will ever get.

    As that Hillary once said, “it takes a village to raise a child”. Mental illness is a whole other story. Sometimes even the best of circumstances and medical care won’t or can’t help that person.

  10. I lived in Nebraska for a short time and I couldn’t believe this story. It was one state that people would normally say that typical, “This kind of thing doesn’t happen here.” But these last 10 years of America’s life only proves that it can. And it will…

  11. Thanks, LK, I feel so many mixed feelings about this event. But, you always have a great way of expressing how most of us feel, with your wonderful writings. It’s so sad, that our world is becoming so hard and unfeeling. But, I have hope, that things are about to change this ugly old world soon!

  12. I would not know paralyzing grief if it stood up in my cornflakes, so I feel wholly unqualified to offer condolences, much less understanding to the victims’ relatives.

    I am realizing that every day, whether we like it or not, we participate in this really wicked random death lottery.

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