American terrorists

3 Apr

I don’t know if this makes me a sensationalist journalist or not, but whenever there’s a report of a shooting somewhere (as there is with YouTube as I write) , I feel drawn to watch coverage, spread news and information, all because of three events relative to violence and suspects on the run that have personally touched my life or that of my family in the past ten years.

Ten years ago in March, University of North Carolina student body president Eve Carson was shot and killed in the city of Chapel Hill, after first serving as the senior class president at Clarke Central High School here in Athens. The men later convicted of her murder were each arrested a week later. I sat with Jace as he mourned for his friend.

Nine years ago this month, a University of Georgia professor shot and killed his estranged wife and two others at a picnic for the Town and Gown Players here in Athens. Jace had been a member of Town and Gown, he was particularly close to one of the victims but had met them all, and he quite by accident became a face beamed across the city and country in the hours after the shooting, as he and I stood vigil as the police and emergency services did their work. The murderer went on the run after the shooting, and our community stood transfixed for days as law enforcement here and throughout the world looked for the man in question. He was found two weeks later, having shot himself after buried himself in a shallow grave near an elementary school here in town.

And seven years ago in March, two Athens-Clarke County Police officers were shot, one dying of his wounds. Again in this case, the suspect was on the run, being captured three days later. Again, the community was paralyzed, looking for the man, as reported sightings, police activity, lockdowns of schools and businesses, all became reality that week.

We don’t know who the shooter at YouTube is yet, whether they’ve been captured or still alive, etc. We do know that whomever this is has once again brought terror and confusion to one of OUR communities. People are again transfixed. Is anyone hurt or dead? Are they someone I know? Is the shooter alive or dead? Is he now out in my community, searching for another victim.

People are reticent to call people who shoot other people “terrorists,” well, unless of course they have brown skin, a Muslim name… The men who carried out the three attacks I mentioned earlier were all born and bred Americans. But you cannot tell me they didn’t bring terror to their communities, weren’t terrorists…as they went on their run to freedom, which in reality landed one of them dead and the other three in prison.


Is this thing on?

3 Apr

Hello, everyone.

I have decided to write more.  I’ve actually had at least one news organization in town offer me the chance to free-lance, but that hasn’t come about yet.  So I am going to revive this space, hopefully regularly, to talk about what’s on my mind.

I hope you’ll tune in, read, participate.

Coming back

31 May

It’s been a while.

I miss writing.  I’ll be back more regularly soon.

Our house was a very, very fine house

11 Aug

Today is a bittersweet day for me.  Today my parents moved out of the house that I grew up in, the house I lived in my first twenty years, the house that always been “my parents’ house,” even after it ceased to be mine.

I decided to respond to the occasion by doing one of the things I do best — writing.  Specifically, writing a letter to those who soon will call it home.  They may never see it, but at least the thoughts will be out there.

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Robin Williams: 1951-2014

12 Aug

The world lost Robin Williams today.  I posted a series of personal reflections on Facebook and felt that I should share them here as well.

A word on the passing of Robin Williams. I can tell you from personal experience that depression and suicide are nasty buggers. Terrible for the person suffering, terrible for the people around the affected person, and in cases like Robin Williams, positively gut-wrenching for those left behind. I guarantee you, the amount we will miss Robin Williams as an actor and comedian does not even scratch the surface of those who will miss him as a friend, husband, and father. I truly hope Mr. Williams has found peace, and I hope that his family does eventually as well.


For those who did not know, I lost my uncle to suicide almost 11 years ago. My other uncle attempted suicide almost nine years ago. A co-worker committed suicide about four years ago. A friend’s mother committed suicide just last year. Multiples of my friends, and even myself briefly at one point, have either considered or attempted suicide. I know firsthand the pain one must feel to consider suicide, and I can only imagine the point one must be at for suicide to be the only answer. I also know the anguish, and damn near guilt, of those left behind. “Did I miss something?’ “Was there something I could’ve done?” “Did I say the right things?” How difficult and how sad. I take this moment to publicly acknowledge my parents and Mrs. Dersey and Mr. Seidelman for seeing me out of my darkest hour. Having been on the other side, I never in a million years would want to put my loved ones through that.


I’m a journalist. It’s been my career choice in some form or fashion since I was probably five or six years old. Given my life experiences, though, there’s a part of the journalistic style I cannot abide.

“Died suddenly.” It’s not been used today, because Robin Williams is a public figure, but “died suddenly” is often a journalistic euphemism for “suicide.” Why can’t we talk about it? Why can’t we let one person’s pain teach us a lesson that might give some sort of meaning to such a senseless tragedy.

The CDC reported that one in 10 people in the U.S. suffer from depression. Almost 30,000 Americans commit suicide each year. By comparison, 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. While cancer kills almost a half-million people annually, making it far more “deadly,” a disproportionate amount of attention is paid to cancer, while mental illness, depression and suicide are swept quietly under the “died suddenly rug.”

Ernest Hemingway. Freddie Prinze Sr. And now, Robin Williams. These are famous people, printed and well-publicized examples that all the wealth and artistic brilliance in the world might not be enough. And while they should be the conversation, they shouldn’t be all of it.

Jim. Chad. Sandra. These are the names of real people, people like you and me that suffered through their depression and whose deaths, if they had made the news at all, would have been reported as “died suddenly.”

“Died suddenly” should not be the same as “died silently.”

It’s time to remove the stigma that depression brings. It’s time to embrace the people who suffer from depression in the same way we embrace people with cancer or any other serious illness.

I’m Brian Smith. Each day I move one day further past my darkest days, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t keep myself and emotions on high guard to avoid ever feeling that way again.

Excuses excuses…

20 Jan

Okay, so I totally meant to get back and start blogging here again.  And then I got distracted.  And distracted.  And then I forgot what I got distracted from.

Seriously though, I’ve been busy, at least in the past couple weeks, starting and managing two new blogs and Facebook pages.

Excuse me while I use my own blog to promote these other projects…

  • Heather’s Pay It Forward 2014: A dear friend of mine, Heather Escoe, recently started a year-long “pay it forward” project.  As her friends and family rallied around her cause, I decided to use my own Internet savvy to promote the project, both through a Facebook page and a blog.  Facebook page here.  Blog here.
  • Linda’s Fight:  After seeing the work I did on her own Facebook page and blog, Heather approached me to ask if I would do a blog for her Aunt Linda, who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  Of course I readily agreed.  Facebook page here.  Blog here.

I appreciate greatly those of you who follow and interact with me here.  I hope you follow my other projects as well, because I am really enjoying doing them.

We will cure this dirty old disease

2 Nov

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know that Jace and I have a friend and ex-roommate who has been battling cancer since April.

We lost Kenny last night.

Cancer is such a dirty, horrible thing.  It makes me ill that sometime in the next week or two, we will bury a man who died three days short of his 31st birthday.  Cancer has had its impacts on my family.  My grandmother is a breast cancer survivor.  So is my mother.  One of my grandfathers had lung cancer, the other melanoma.  In 2009, I lost a dear family friend to melanoma at the age of 39.  I will never understand how such a horrible thing can touch innocent people.

Now, a mother and father must bury their son.  A man of not quite 22 will bury his partner.  Kenny will continue to live on in our hearts forever though.

When Kenny got sick, Jace and I created a Facebook page to raise awareness for Kenny’s cause.  He and his partner started a GoFundMe page to raise money to help with Kenny’s medical expenses.  Together, Kenny’s friends, family, and total strangers donated more than $6,000 to help Kenny and his family.  The power of social media really shined in Kenny’s case.  Feel free to peruse either of those pages to learn more about Kenny and why we all love him so very much.  Also, please keep Kenny, his partner Chris, and all of Kenny’s friends and family (Jace and I included) in your thoughts and prayers.