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From Death Come Life's Insights

January 03, 1998|MEGHAN O'DELL | Meghan O'Dell lives in Orange and is a junior at Villa Park High School

I don't face sirens, gunshots or gangs every day. My life is the simple, carefree life of an easy-going teenager. But I was slapped in the face by reality. My friends' families have been torn by death.

I went to a funeral for a friend's murdered father on Christmas Eve. I never met Hal Bierlein, but I know one of his sons and people say he was a good man.

I've been a passenger in the white Volkswagen he drove to work at Caltrans the day he was shot and killed by a former employee. I thought about that when I saw the newspaper photo of the VW parked in the Caltrans lot.

I am 16. I live in a fairly new, fairly upscale neighborhood in a quiet town where things like this aren't supposed to happen.

But they did.

My friends and I know that the world isn't all bad; we have good times, too. But still we are growing up in a world where violence, death and failed justice are not far away.

The deaths of Hal Bierlein, the three other Caltrans workers and the man who shot and killed them got the name of my hometown plastered across the bottom of television screens all over the state on Dec. 18. It was the day that Orange finally was known for something besides being 20 minutes away from Disneyland.

The night after the shooting, my friends and I slid into a booth at the local taco place, our trays spilling with greasy French fries and tacos. Our conversation revolved around the big event.

"I'm just glad [the gunman's] dead."

"Yeah. If he was alive, he would have been acquitted."

"A few therapy sessions and he'd be on the streets again."

"I feel so bad for the families."

"Christmas will never feel the same."

We question, we ponder, some of us pray.

Because of this atrocity, my friends and I have decided we know the meaning of life. We've decided that we are here to love and to learn. We learn from the experiences that surround us, from the feelings that envelop our hearts. And we've found out that giving one another our love, our comfort and caring words can heal the slashes and bruises of loss. We learn that life isn't fair, that we should live each day as if it were our last, because it might be.

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