My first experience with violence was etched into my memory shortly before I was 2 years old.
My grandfather was a police reporter for the San Antonio Light, and he and my grandmother lived on a farm outside of San Antonio on the Corpus Christi Highway.
A short distance to the south from their home was Hilltop, which consisted of a gas station, a store and a locker where people could store frozen goods. It was long before people had freezers in their homes.
My grandfather heard that something was happening at Hilltop, and he headed that way.
Being a baby attached to his grandfather, I didn’t want him to leave. He took me with him.
The gas station had been robbed and three men murdered. To this day, seven decades later, I can still see their bloodied bodies.
I first witnessed the joining of violence and pure evil in August 1973 in Houston.
I was a reporter for United Press International working the night shift. A source called and said I should come to a boat storage shed in a remote part of the city.
I watched as detectives dug in one of the units and began recovering the bodies of young boys and teenagers who had been tortured, raped, murdered and buried there, their bodies stuffed into garbage bags and covered in lye.
I didn’t think the stench from the decay would ever leave me.
As midnight approached, the body count grew as the officers dug.
I reported the growing number to my editors in the Dallas UPI office.
“Who says there are that many victims?” they asked.
“I do,” I said. “I’m counting them as they pull the bodies from their grave.”
Before the search at the boat shed and other locations was over, 28 victims of Dean Allen Corll and his teenage accomplices, Elmer Wayne Henley and David Owen Brooks, had been found. More likely went undiscovered.
I had hoped such evil would be the rare exception. Now 70 years old, I have a gnawing fear that it is not.
Mass murders in schools, at concerts, during worship services no longer jar us beyond the initial revulsion that too readily fades as news cycles move onto other things.
The stench of that boat shed and the sight of those bloodied bodies in an obscure Texas gas station have never left me.
But the onslaught of violence – the assassinations, the Vietnam war, four dead in Ohio, the endless wars in the Mideast, the terrorist attacks, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Pittsburgh, a Tallahassee yoga studio – leaves me, and others I suspect, numb.
I grew disillusioned with the church when so many Christians condoned the atrocities of the Vietnam War.
I grow more disillusioned today as so many Christians condone the words and actions of a president that are far removed from the teachings of Christ.
I fear for our souls and the soul of our country.