Some fat loser named Vester who wanted to kill some white people and settle some scores and make a name for himself. He was "Bryce" on TV. And he was Bryce on Twitter as he posted the video of himself gunning down three innocent people, unloading his Glock into them and America's consciousness. Camera in the left hand, gun in the right hand, nothing in the soul.
Two hours later he sent off his manifesto to where his talents never took him – network headquarters in New York. He ranted and raved, complaining of being wronged, of being overlooked, of being disrespected. And he talked about payback. A white guy killed some black people; and now a black guy was going to kill some white people.
"You want a race war?" he wrote. "Bring it!"
And over an incomprehensible morning, he fled. Swapping out cars and taking to social media and fleeing to who knows where.
But they were on him, and they got the second license plate, and a reader picked it up, and as the troopers closed he took the coward's way out.
Two hours later he was in hell. And America is in shock.
Because at a certain level, the TV people are our friends. The folks from town who come into the living room or dance on the phone, telling about the weather and the robbery and the school board election. The people whose faces and voices and styles become familiar and fond. Strangers, in a way, but family in another way.
People who, annoying or frustrating at times, are actually in our service, performing a role foreseen and protected by our Constitution. We are better when we are an informed people, when we have the facts, and when the light of scrutiny is shined into the crevasses of power and intrigue. Done right, the news inspires as well as informs, and leaves us better and freer.
And the people who deliver the news become trusted confidants.
They are petty celebrities, and part of a place.
And an attack on them is an attack on a place.
And yesterday was an attack on America, and an American institution.
Long threatened by angry crowds, pelted by the occasional bottle or rock, screamed at by various bad guys and stonewalled by countless politicians, there has always been the undercurrent of risk. The uncertainty about who is going to do what when.
No matter the media. Reporters with microphones or notepads are just as vulnerable and as frequently targeted as reporters with cameras and lights.
But it had always been just below the surface, understood and warily watched for by many reporters, but unknown to the general public.
But now it is known, and it can never be unknown.
And the horrifying specter of monkey-see, monkey-do now stands in the shadows. Schools were never shot up, until one was. Movie theaters were never shot up, until one was.
Reporters were never murdered, until two were.
And one wonders if the sick lust for attention that marinates in the minds of the evil and ill will see in the butchery of yesterday not horror but inspiration. How long before someone else craving attention and notoriety, for personal or philosophical reasons, recognizes the power of the live shot and the vulnerability of the news team.
Evil like his was not unforeseen.
The federal government has warned of it in past terror alerts. If terrorists believed killing service members and police officers would strike at the American people, certainly – the reasoning went – they would recognize the same in an attack upon the press.
But this wasn't a terrorist, it was a narcissist.
And two people just starting their careers and their lives are gone, wiped out for no reason.
While America watched.
And America learned.
Anew, the value of human life.
And maybe for the first time, the importance of local reporting. No matter the medium or the mode of delivery, in the paper or on the phone, on the car radio or the bedroom television set. We are curious about our world, citizenship requires understanding, knowledge is power.
And each day an army of people goes out to gather that knowledge and deliver it to us. They serve a valuable role in a free society.
And like other defenders of freedom, sometimes their duty brings risk.
And it may even bring death.
I think America has realized that, and the journalism trade has realized that, and the future will worry about that.
But people like Alison and Adam will still get up every day and go out and do what they do. And like any number of other useful vocations, they will face danger in doing so, and press on undeterred.
Because that's who they are.
And that's who we are.