It’s Sunday, October 10, late afternoon. We’re in Balboa Park, at the San Diego Automotive Museum. Lucas is puzzled. “The car has a toilet?” The car in question is a highly modified Cadillac, built by one Louie Mattar. The Cadillac has been transformed: it is a machine that could, theoretically, carry its passengers indefinitely, without having to stop. In the back: a small electric stove, a fridge, a sink that can be converted into a washing machine, a toilet, even a folding ironing board. The Caddy hauls a trailer that carries in excess of 200 gallons of gas, 15 gallons of oil, and 30 gallons of fresh water (the car itself has tanks that hold 50). There is a working shower sprouting from beneath the hood. A small catwalk surrounds the car so that passengers can climb around the vehicle while it’s moving. The car drove nonstop from San Diego to New York and back. “Dad! They drove this across the country! And they ate in it and took a shower and everything! Cool!” Someone thought this could be built, I thought. He thought he could build a car that could do all of these things, and so he did.
It’s Friday, October 8, 3:12. The backpacks hang in a row below the window. The kids come running out of the classroom. Lucas waves at me, grabs his backpack off of the hook, and runs over. He’s clutching a sheet of paper in one hand. He runs over and I drop to one knee and draw him in. For a second I can’t speak. Then: “Whatcha got, dude?” He hands it to me. It’s a map of the world, each continent labelled, the exuberant scrawl of the first grader. The continents have been colored – yellow, orange, bright green, lavender. It’s the world as it should be.
It’s Friday, October 8, 3:00. I move with purpose. My fists are clenched. Behind wraparound sunglasses my eyes shift, left to right, back again, looking for anyone who might not seem…right. There was talk of a second man, one who got away, and for all I know he’s here. I pass the moms and their low whispers: “…and he carried a propane tank? For what?….” I know why he brought the propane tank. Because bullets wouldn’t have been enough. At some point Lucas will find out what happened up the street, and we’ll sit down to talk about it, and a small part of him will die. No – that sounds too natural, too clean. He’ll have a small part of him murdered by that man, the man with the propane tank. I stride towards his classroom.
It is Friday, October 8, shortly after two. I’m multi-tasking, answering some work emails while perusing Twitter. It takes a second before the words register, and then I’m on an elevator that suddenly drops, leaving my stomach five floors up. Shooting at elementary school in Carlsbad. We’re in Carlsbad. Lucas’ school is right across the street. I would’ve heard gunshots, right? I don’t know. Kids scream. They scream when they’re exhilarated. They scream when they’re terrified. How many elementary schools are there in Carlsbad? I don’t know. 6? 8? Less? I run into the bedroom and turn on the TV. I hear a voice. “Shortly after noon, a gunman opened fire…” and then a thought drowns out the rest, and for a brief second my mind goes white. It’s shortly after two. Lucas. Two hours he might have been dead.
It is Friday, October 8, shortly after noon. I’m sitting at my desk, on the phone with a candidate. Beth’s taken Zoe out; they’re likely sitting down to eat lunch. I’m actually not hungry; it’s warm and sunny out, and warm weather does that to me. My office is on the second floor; a cool breeze blows through the window, carrying with it the sounds of schoolkids. Noon recess. My boy’s among them; I listen hard and try to make out his voice, but of course I can’t. Fanciful thoughts turn to pragmatic ones: lately Lucas hasn’t been finishing his lunch. Lack of food causes him to drift, become cranky and unfocused. The kid needs to eat. I need to talk to him about that.
It is Friday, October 8, shortly after noon. A man named Brendan Liam O’Rourke pulls up to Kelly Elementary school, a few miles from where Lucas is playing and I’m sitting. Noon recess. Brendan Liam O’Rourke jumps the fence. He leaves the propane tank by the car, but takes the smaller gas can with him. The Kelly Elementary school playground is full of children. The cool breeze carries the sounds of schoolkids across the playground and through Brendan Liam O’Rourke’s gibbering brain. He pulls out a .357 Magnum revolver and starts shooting at them.