This is not a scoop.
This is not an insider tell-you-anything.
This is not the beginning or the end or the first or the last word.
The heat was unrelenting. Here came the bagpipes. The procession. The tolling of the bell. The stopping of the clock. Dear diary: I was there. Dear diary: I knew someone once. Dear diary: I was that person. Dear diary: they were taken. Dear diary: here is a stone.
(Are you still listening?)
Another year. After so many. Before decades of others.
Here comes a birthday. We have stopped counting candles on the cake.
On August 1, 1966, the world heard Charles Whitman‘s gunshots as he shot and killed people he didn’t know from the top of the tower at UT Austin. It was the first mass shooting captured on television in the heart of a college campus and in full view of the Texas state capitol dome.
But before his public rampage, Whitman killed two women–family members–in the privacy of their own homes: his mother, Margaret, and his wife, Kathleen (“Kathy”). Kathy was 23 years old, a recent graduate of UT Austin, and a science teacher who had just completed her first year at Sidney Lanier High School.
For almost four years now, as I’ve completed a second book, 1966 has weighed heavily on my mind. Maybe you were born that year, or one of your siblings was. Maybe you got married then, or your parents did. Perhaps you graduated, or got drafted. Maybe you lost someone—to distance, disease, or drinking; to random violence or Vietnam.
In May that year, The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, an album that received some critical acclaim despite mostly popular failure. Love and Mercy, a stunning biopic about Brian Wilson released last weekend (starring John Cusack and Paul Dano), devotes an amazing amount of detail to the creation of songs for that album. It wasn’t an easy process.