Earlier today, when Channel 4 News called me to discuss last night’s tragic shooting at The Mall at Short Hills, I made it clear that “I didn’t know the victim.” That’s OK they told me. You live in town, you work in town, you are well connected to SU – the victims Law School alma mater. So they came to my office, interviewed me and went on their way. News at 6. Funny how a tragedy can strike so close to home, even when you don’t know the victim.
Last night at around 9:45, I got my first glimpse into an unfolding news story. Someone posted on twitter that a shooting was being reported at The Mall. I was upset but not so much so that I was going to miss the ending of Homeland but, as soon as the show was over, I grabbed my computer and started hunting for details. At 10 PM last night, there was not much to tell. In an apparent carjacking, someone had been shot and taken to Morristown Hospital. No age, sex or details. This morning it was reported that the a young man had died but no name was being released. Still I don’t know the victim.
At about 10:30 this morning, many more details were being released. Dustin Friedland, age 30, was senselessly gunned down for his Land Rover. His wife was in the car but was left unharmed. Dustin was an 2009 graduate of the SU College of Law and his wife as SU Law ’09. He is not involved in the local alumni club (which I preside over) and still I don’t know the victim.
I take a brief moment and posted a note on the SUNNJAC twitter account mourning the loss of a local alum and don’t think much about. I don’t use that account often (preferring my IraSez account) and very rarely check for replies or messages but something told me to leave that webpage window open. An hour later, a Channel 4 reporter responds asking if there is someone at the club who can comment on Dustin’s death. A couple of twitter messages, an email and a couple of phone calls, and at 3:15 the camera is on. All the while I keep stating I didn’t know the victim.
Now here I sit. My interview has aired, my 15 seconds of fame is done and I’m wishing it had never happened. Such a senseless loss. To be his wife, to be his parents, to be his friends. And who am I in this? I’m a person speaking for my communities – home and alma mater. It touches me someplace down in my soul, makes me want to hug my children even harder than usual and brings tears to my eyes. And just think…I didn’t know the victim.