Carrie Barnette and Jennifer Irvine

Tomorrow Lisa and I will be walking in our first Vegas Strong event. For those not in know, this is a 5K walk/run that starts in downtown Las Vegas, and is held in memory of the far-too-many people who were killed in the shooting that happened here five years ago.

Yesterday we picked up packets that provided a few elements to support the walk, including a t-shirt, a chipped bib so we can get our timing covered, and a wristband. It also included a name. Or, more appropriately for me, it included a slip of paper that read “Running or Walking In Memory of Carrie Barnette.” Lisa’s was the same, but dedicated her walk to Jennifer Irvine.

Well, yeah. That took me back a half-notch.

Of course, I figured earlier, this was a memorial service. Of course it would be emotional in its way. Of course it would. I mean, you know … last week we walked in the St. Jude event, and there were some powerful moments that came from seeing families who were so directly impacted by childhood cancer. The idea of focusing on harm and hurt comes with the entire concept of walking for charity.

A couple weeks back, during our own walk, Lisa and I came across a small plot of a park nearby, which we soon discovered was the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden. It’s a really beautiful place. Quiet in the middle of the bustle. Once we realized what it was, we took a few minutes to stroll around it, looking at pictures and names.

When the shooting happened, we lived in Tucson. We were horrified, of course, and since we knew people here we were a little concerned for them. But the events weren’t local for us, so they weren’t as personal. The horror we felt (that I felt, anyway) was the distant form of horror about humanity that I can get without it being so close it stops me in my tracks. Walking in the Healing Garden was like that to a degree. Closer, yes. More intimate. But, still.

The names were a collective, and though I tried to take them in, they flowed past without too much friction.

Today everything feels different, though. Today I know I’ll be participating in the Vegas Strong event in the memory of a real person who really existed. Carrie Barnette. A person who Google tells me was 34 years old when random violence took her life—who was celebrating a friend’s birthday here. A person who had a family and who lived in Riverside California. Who had a job in the world of Disney.

Lisa’s Jennifer Irvine was 42 years old and a lawyer.

I won’t pretend that a ridiculously quick Google tells me much about people I’ve never met, so in that way there’s nothing here. But I will say that taking a moment to really see her helped me get my head on even more firmly about the event tomorrow.

Life is so short.

And so random.

One moment things are good, and the next … they are not.

As much as I hate the fact that the world is such that I have an actual name to walk for, as I sit here today, I’m feeling honored to know I’ll be carrying one.

I’ll think about that as Lisa and I are walking tomorrow. I’ll think about Carrie, and her family. And I’ll hope, almost certainly in vain, that this kind of thing will—someday—never happen again.

Carrie Barnette
Jennifer Irvine
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