Skip to main content

Chester County Press

Editorial: Chasing rainbows

07/10/2017 10:28AM ● By Richard Gaw
A young girl, born in Chester County in the 1950s, sits in the third row of her second-grade class on a Friday afternoon in November 1963. The class is suddenly interrupted, and she and her fellow students are asked to go home. The children on the bus have no idea why they were sent home early; the little girl's only clue is seeing the face of a teacher, red with tears, running down the school hallway to her students. That weekend, she watches a funeral on her family's black-and-white television.
She sees a single horse lead the procession. She hears the lonely clop of its hooves and behind the horse, a draped coffin rides behind. The little girl turns from the screen and sees the faces of her mother and father. They are ashen, unmoving and defeated by what the young girl can only imagine as horror. Without yet knowing the circumstances that perpetuated it, she knows, for the first time in her life, the hollowness of what senseless tragedy feels like.
She sees those same faces in her parents twice in 1968, after the murders of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. She sees those faces when the body counts are shared on the same black-and-white television from a far-way jungle.
The faces she saw on her mother and father so many years ago are hers now -- the inheritance of compassion in the wake of the unexplainable; a silent, inner helplessness, layered by the spectacle of human venom in full view. On the morning of September 11, 2001, she saw those faces on the television, staring up at the sky, first in disbelief, later in revulsion, just as she did when she heard that children had been gunned down at West Nickel Mines, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. Each time now, for reasons that she does not understand, she feels that with each passing tragedy, the Legacy of Evil will explain to her once and for all why it refuses to leave.
It never does. It never will.
The event that occurred on the evening of June 28, one that left a West Goshen woman dead of a bullet wound to the head -- just miles from here she lives with her own family -- continues to play out like a small film in the woman's mind. It calls up a never-ending loop of images of 18-year-old Bianca Roberson driving toward the Route 100/Route 202 merge two Wednesdays ago, and it imagines the next moments that soon ended her life.
The woman was raised to believe that hope had the power to lift everyone up from the darkest depths of despair. Hope is continuing to forgive those who trespass against us. It is continuing to believe that there will be a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, if we pray hard enough. It is continuing to create the illusion that suggests if we wish for better things, they will eventually come to us.
But for all of its merciful intentions, hope -- and its companion, faith -- seems to her like a cheap gift now; a card shark bargain struck at a street corner. Hope, the woman knows, did not provide a rationalization for why a young president and his brother and a pastor died at the hand of assassins, or give her the capacity to understand why those buildings fell in New York City and Washington, D.C. Hope will not deliver Bianca Roberson back to her parents or to the life she was just beginning.
Days had passed, and for reasons she did not comprehend, the Chester County woman drove to the area where Bianca Roberson lost her life on June 28. The traffic she saw was politely merging, car after car. Drivers and riders were busy in conversation. Everyone had a destination. The patterns of life were regular and moving. No one who wrestles to understand the pure madness of evil can ever hope to win, she thought. There are no gifts handed out for chasing rainbows. In the end, we are preordained to take the hits that tragedy burrows into us, and how we survive depends on the capacity we have left in our hearts for acts of love. 
The flowers and the signs near the spot where Bianca Roberson was murdered were many, but life had returned from the raging maelstrom, the way it always does. The woman merged her way into the flow of traffic, and then toward home.