Amissville column for Dec. 20

In the shadow of the Connecticut school killings

The fog still swirled in the darkness of 6 a.m. Monday morning when commuters pulled into Mayhugh’s on U.S. 211 for fuel and a quick coffee. It was a dark day in a season made darker after a lone gunman entered a Connecticut grade school the previous Friday and slayed 27 people with multiple gunshots from a .223 Bushmaster rifle, including 20 children under the age of eight.

“My sister-in-law had just passed away that day when I got the call from my husband about the shooting. It was just horrible,” recalled Jenny Whorton, 37, who works the morning shift at the gas station and convenience store. She pulled her long hair from her forehead and laid her head on her hands on the counter for a moment. “There are no words that can express what happened at that school, to so many children who were so young. I just can’t come to terms with it.”

Soon, she was waiting on a young woman buying a soda and a pack of Marlboros who said she had not heard about the event. After Jenny told her the short version, she asked incredulously, “What kind of person would do such a thing?”

“That’s what I want to know,” Jenny said.

For 45-year-old Donnie Berry, the answer is easy: the shooter is a “nutcase.”

“The whole thing is terrible,” he said as he opened sugar packets into his coffee. “I’m not sure that anything can really be done. I do think that gun control is not the answer because the crazies and nutcases will still be able to get firearms.”

His anti-gun control stance was echoed by Bruce Hutcheson, 55, as he refueled his vehicle at the pumps. As a father of four, he called the shooting an “indescribable act, one that is beyond any of our expectations.” He considered increased gun control “out of the question in a free society,” and said he hoped the event would cause lawmakers and experts to “examine the full spectrum of issues and ask questions about where we have arrived as a culture.”

Eighteen-year-old Shelby Buxton, a Rappahannock County High School graduate who works at Mayhugh’s, said she never imagined someone coming into her school and killing people. She said she now worries about her five siblings still in public schools.

“It’s horrible. I don’t even want to watch the news anymore,” she said.

Christmas Basket event tonight

Tonight (Thursday, Dec. 20) is the night for all area elves who want to help sort donated food and put together the food baskets for needy Amissville families. The fun runs from 5 to 7 p.m. at Bethel Baptist Church on Viewtown Road, and a light supper will be served for those who get hungry handling all those cans of peas and boxes of pasta.

Bring any last-minute food and/or monetary donations, plus holiday wrapping paper, tape and scissors. Long-time volunteers say helping out with the Amissville Christmas Basket Project is an important part of their holiday season, so come tonight to be part of the fun.