By CJ Gronner
I was out of town in Chicago, having a blast at Lollapalooza. My friend said, “Some psycho mowed down people on the Boardwalk today!” Then I started getting messages from people all over, hoping I wasn’t down there myself when this evil maniac decided to hurt people on purpose. I wasn’t, thank God. Nor was anyone close to me. Thank goodness!
A whole busy Summer Saturday throng was there, however, and will never forget it. It’s actually a complete miracle that more people weren’t killed or hurt, considering how dense the population is down there at that time. (Kind of how amazing it was that more people weren’t killed when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed a few years ago at rush hour. Complete miracle.)
I got back to Venice, and the first thing I wanted to do was go down there and talk to people, to try to understand a bit for myself. But there is no understanding of this kind of crazy. No one could believe their eyes, even as it was happening.
The incredible thing now is that each and every person I talked to on the Boardwalk was coming at it with love. Their main concern was that the family of Alice Gruppioni, the new bride on her honeymoon from Italy – TRAGIC – knows that Venice sends them love, and feels their pain. We love our community dearly. Having something horrific like this happen in a place that is world-famous for mellow vibes and one love is just completely out of context.
I was happy to see that the Boardwalk was packed. On a weekday. Everyone was laughing and having a good time, per usual. No fear at all detected. More incredulity, really. Like, WHAT?!
As we walked along, and got closer to where Gruppioni was killed, I had a weird, quiet feeling. I’m pretty sensitive to the feelings of things, and it just felt … different. Reflective. Reverent. Sad.
A memorial was set up, with signs and flowers and messages of love. The artists of the beach came together to create big canvases that they sent to the Gruppioni family in Italy. It can’t change what happened, but it can let them know that we are with them in their grief. Community – and love – always helps in healing.
The sky was as bright as the colors in the paintings, and it felt like nothing bad could ever happen. The thing is, that when something bad DID happen … the people came together and showed love, helping one another in every way that was necessary as the horror played out. They all talked about that – the coming together. The good in the bad. That should be what we take from it.
That’s why we have to absolutely treasure every golden moment we get to do that smiling and laughing, because you just never know. I guess that’s the lesson every time some insane thing like this happens. Love your life NOW.
Deepest sympathies to everyone hurt by this outrageous act. Love to everyone who loves Venice, around the world. Love.