Less than 48 hours had passed from the time Ranger Margaret Anderson was killed by a gunman in Mt. Rainier National Park and the moment this photo was taken. It seemed ever so much longer, an eon of friends grieving, trying to get their emotions under control, trying to find some stability in the world. There had been closure, finality, with the discovery of the shooter's body, but for two days, everyone had been going on adrenaline. Now that chapter is closed, and the more difficult one begins: learning to cope with the tragedy.
To that end, an employee debriefing was held at Park Headquarters this morning. I walked up even though I'm still sick, walked because one less car would mean someone else had a place to park, walked because...well, walked because I walk things off, both physical and psychological. I walked as a tribute to Margaret, thinking about her family, thinking about her friends in the greater Park Service community.
And what I found at the end of my walk were people quietly crying, others choked with emotion, some visibly enraged, but all bound by one thing: their dedication to Park Service and particularly to Mt. Rainier National Park. That sense of community extended across thirty years to touch me as well.
There will be a candlelight vigil in Eatonville tonight, but I cannot attend. I will, however, light a candle in my window for a woman whose bravery may well have spared others, a Ranger to the end.