Dear Kalamazoo

Alex Taylor
Major: Creative Writing English
Non-WMU Program Florence, Italy

Dear Kalamazoo,

The zoo. My solace. My safe haven. My home. You are a city whose name raises an eyebrow each time it’s pronounced. A city who carries pride and work ethic- from beer brewing to medical research. You are a city, a place not recognized by many, but respected by all within. Kalamazoo- a place I miss; without any specific reason.
Raised in your outskirts, I was taught to be proud of what my time and work went into- no matter what it was. Your teachers embraced our potential, pushing us to be unique. You are nationally insignificant, far from the spotlight, the perfect place for a kid to take pride in.
Graduating high school and taking the plunge toward college, we had options. Some went D-1, some went private school, and others got the hell out as soon as possible. I had all these options, but something inside me led me to stay- to stay in the only place I will ever call home.
Kalamazoo, the underdog, I will always root for you. Here, we can be who we want to be. We can go where we want to go. We can do what we want to do. In Kalamazoo, time slows- if you allow it to. Here, life doesn’t seem so complicated.
I can’t wrap my head around the day of February 20th. The idea taunts me- waking up to my city, my home- in the headlines; and for all the wrong reasons. Families lost members, teachers lost students, and Kalamazoo as a whole, lost its breath. The worst part of the news: that is not who Kalamazoo is.
You are a city full of dreamers. We know we could go anywhere in the world- but we chose to stay here. We know we could do exactly what we are doing somewhere else- but we chose to do it here. We know it’s not paradise- but at least you’re a slice.
It’s hard to decipher what to be more upset about: the young potential erased from the map, or the man who put you on that same map in the first place. Of course I want to know how, or why, a man could do this; but sometimes, life isn’t always about the answers- sometimes, life is about the questions.
Now I’m stuck wondering what the 14 and 18 year old victims could have done to this city. What these kids could have done to the world. Or what the four elderly victims could have shared- what they could have taught us if they knew this was their last day. And finally, how, Kalamazoo- how could this happen here?
These answers will never surface. The killer’s motives may never surface, either. But something that will transcend from this- Kalamazoo will grow even stronger. We will not let this stop us. To those who live on, we will not forget this. We will defeat this- we will not let this defeat us.
I miss your seasons- nine months of hell just for three months of heaven. I miss your lakes- sacrificing sunburn for sand. And I miss my home- the one place we’re supposed to feel safe.
Kalamazoo- this will not change my mind about you. I will always represent you, praise you, and carry you with me where ever I go. And this tragedy, this atrocity of events, will not change that.

Today, we have been allowed breath; so let’s not waste it. Cherish it, use it how these victims would, and take pride in the underdog- be proud of our home, in Kalamazoo.

From Florence,
Alex Taylor

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