When tragedies hit home

Tragedy intertwined. Two violent deaths in the course of 24 hours, two young lives extinguished, as families and friends seek to make sense of the senseless. The mystery of death is unfathomable when it’s abrupt and unacceptable when it’s an act of evil.

The death of Washington State Patrol officer Sean O’Connell last Friday is under investigation. We know that the 38-year old was assigned to traffic control, working a detour around the collapsed Skagit River bridge. O’Connell’s motorcycle collided with a box truck.

The 16-year veteran, a Marysville resident with a wife and two children, had been awarded Trooper of the Year for his district. He was a Navy veteran, with a career reflective of service above self. His WSP photo radiates a sweet confidence, a good-guy smile not likely to upset a ticketed driver.

O’Connell’s on-the-job death is a tragic reminder of the risks troopers face on a daily basis. Sunday’s motorcade that transported O’Connell’s body consisted of 150 patrol cars. Folks waved flags from overpasses. Nothing gives expression to law enforcement’s unifying bond than honor bestowed to a fallen comrade.

“We not only lost a great trooper, we lost a great human being,” said WSP Chief John Batiste. “Sean was known around the department and the community for both his sense of humor and sense of compassion.”

Batiste went on to note, “We have no indication that this is anything other than a tragic accident.”

But the drive-by shooting death of 15-year old Molly Conley in Lake Stevens on Saturday was no accident. It was a travesty, an evil magnified by its apparent randomness. (An echo of Everett nurse Rachel Kamin’s death on Mother’s Day.) With murder, the mystery of death is tougher to absorb. Molly Conley didn’t sign up for this. She was a freshman honor student at Bishop Blanchet High School, a Catholic school in North Seattle.

The statement from her family is as inspired as it is heart-rending:

“We loved Molly so very much,” her mother, Susan Arksey, said. “She was a great girl, she loved her family, her friends, her school and she loved life. She loved her sister, her brother and her parents.”

The public memorial service for Trooper O’Connell is Thursday at 1:00 p.m. at Comcast Arena. Services for Molly Conley are pending.

Conley’s killing is another reminder of the plague of gun violence. A muzzle flash, a life stolen. The person or persons responsible must be brought to justice.

The lesson of Trooper O’Connell and Molly Conley? The Irish were right. In the end, the world will break your heart.

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