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By Diana Diamond

Coping with a tragedy — without coddling ourselves

Uploaded: Jun 9, 2021

Several years ago, I had lunch with a local police chief and realized he was a bit silent. “Everything okay?” I asked. “Well, not quite,” he responded. “My son died four weeks ago.”

We talked about that death, and how he felt, and how his wife was doing. “I’m the lucky one,” he said. He had a job to do, which kept him busy all day long, and he has, as ever, been focused on his work. “My wife is home all day alone, and all she does is think about the death of her son.”

I understood completely, and have reflected on his wife’s grieving and the reason for her intense sorrow – her aloneness – for a long time. If you are home all day long, alone, all you think about is what is bothering you the most.

Which brings me to the tragic death of nine individuals plus the gunman when a San Jose man entered the VTA yards in downtown San Jose early in the morning. The shooter, 57-year-old San Jose resident Samuel Cassidy, who fired 39 rounds, targeting victims, was a disgruntled VTA employee. His home, when searched, was filled with numerous high-speed weapons and he, for years, had complained about his work and how other employees had it

The VTA’s solution, with some obvious pressure from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265 in San Jose, was to give all VTA employees weeks off to attend funerals, mourn, and try to recover from the incident. As a result, VTA officials ordered all transit to stop – all buses in the county and all light rail. Four weeks later, the closedown is still continuing. With no predictions as to when the VTA would be operating again.

I understand the traumas of the VTA people coping with the death of fellow workers. It’s tough.

I know death. One of my sons died four years ago of a sudden cardiac arrest. He was in good health, we all thought, but his father and his grandfather died of similar heart attacks. I feel that part of me is gone because of his death, but there is nothing I, nor anyone, can do about it. Just go forward.

I thought about what the police chief had told me about his wife. If the VTA employees are sitting at home all day, or even going out and about, is this the best way to recover from this traumatic incident?

And what about all the VTA commuters who used light rail and the buses to get to work each day? They obviously had to find other ways to get to work – drive their car, or carpool, bike, or take a taxi or Uber – and how much is this costing them in time and money? Did the VTA take this into consideration? And just as important, VTA has had fewer users during the coronavirus shutdown. Will this deliberate stoppage of their services encourage people to go back and use VTA when it reopens -- or will they just say, forget about it?

My second line of questioning is are we today exaggerating some experiences we’ve been through recently? Like the corona virus shutdown, and now the idea of going back to work. I heard three different psychiatrists interviewed on TV, all of whom said we had gone through “a lot,” and, of course, we have to adjust and slowly proceed back into the real world, rather than stay home because of the virus. Many, they said, are afraid of going back to work so they have to adapt slowly Take a short and then a longer walk around the block, go to a small store, adjust to being with other people and then slowly get back into being at your job.


I say, perhaps unfairly you think, that I am delighted to be with people again—to actually see my children after more than a year (I was very cautious, as were they), to eat indoors at a restaurant, to have my book club over for a meeting. (We have all had our two covid shots.)

I am speaking to the adults reading this. As an adult, we have all at some point, adjusted to several severe occurrences in our lives – sick children unexpected work layoffs, a necessary operation with lots of needed recuperation, a bad boss, a child with a difficult problem, an endless work search. And, I hope, most of us made it through without glorifying our sad feelings.

Lest I seem too unkind, I empathize and understand.

But remember what that police chief said. I think he was, and, is, correct in the best way to go forward