Beyond the Byline: Even after unspeakable tragedy, life always goes on

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected] | June 10th, 2017 6:07 pm

WILKES-BARRE — The Allman Brothers Band had a song with lyrics that went, “Tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can.”

For some reason, I thought of those lyrics when I heard about the shootings at Weis Market in Eaton Township this week. A 24-year-old, obviously troubled man shot and killed three of his co-workers and then himself during an overnight shift when the market was closed, apparently the culmination of a plan he had been compiling for months.

Much has come out about Randy Robert Stair — the YouTube videos, the Twitter tweets, the written diatribes — and I’m sure much more will be revealed.

But enough about him and his insanity.

My thoughts are with the victims, their families and their friends. The victims have been identified as Weis Market co-workers Victoria Todd Brong, 25, of Factoryville; Brian Hayes, 47, of Springville; and Terry Lee Sterling, 63, of South Montrose.

These three people got themselves ready for work to go in and give their best to their employer. Just like they did every night — they were tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best they could.

And by doing their jobs, they were senselessly murdered by a crazed gunman. This is the kind of crime that just doesn’t go away. It may never go away for the people left behind. That’s why events like Thursday night’s vigil are so important — people coming together to support and console each other during an extremely difficult time.

Like most people who have heard about this story, I didn’t know any of the victims. But I have them in my prayers. Nothing anybody can do will ever eradicate the heavy emotional loss this event has caused, but life, however diminished, does go on.

And life will go on for those left behind. People will return to their jobs, their communities, their families, their friends. Gradually, all will reach some level of a new normal.

But they, nor we, will ever forget.

These three victims were so much more than Weis Market “associates.” They were human beings, all with a purpose in life. All with an American dream. All with a desire to make life better for themselves and those they loved.

We can never allow one crazed gunman to accomplish any of his sordid goals. We must continue on, get stronger day by day and we will always live in a better place than the world where Randy Robert Stair dwelled.

On the same day of this inconceivable tragedy, I happened to be in the company of some very special people who always make me feel better about living in an often troubling world. These special people allow me to, at least temporarily, forget about all that is wrong in this world.

The first person I was with on Thursday was Stephanie Jallen, the 21-year-old Paralympic skier who is now training for the 2018 Paralympic Games to be held in March in South Korea.

I got to talk to Stephanie about her training and the challenges she has faced her entire life. Through it all, she has worked hard to get where she is. And don’t be surprised to see her come home with a gold medal next year.

What is most amazing to me about Stephanie is her attitude. She is never down and she is always smiling. She exudes positivity and she is and always will be an inspiration to everyone.

After spending time with Stephanie, I then headed to West Pittston Little League for Opening Day of Victory Baseball — now in its seventh year serving adults with mental and physical challenges. With 85 participants dressed in uniforms of the Yankees, Phillies, Cubs and Giants, the season began.

One moment really captured the essence of Victory Baseball. A rookie arrived late and wanted to bat, so volunteers got Jared Walski to the plate. From his wheelchair, Jared was ever-determined to hit the ball.

As he struggled a bit, his Yankees teammate, Tony Russo, walked to Jared’s side, gently grabbed the bat as Jared held on, eyes glued to the pitcher. The pitch came and Jared, with Tony’s assistance, hit the ball down the third base line, bringing a smile to his face as the crowd cheered.

It was a very special moment, duplicated time and again at Victory games.

From Stephanie Jallen to Jared Walski to Tony Russo, my mind was far from the tragedy at the Weis Market in Eaton Township.

Life does go on.

Bill O’Boyle O’Boyle

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]