For Chuck Young, chief ranger at Mount Rainier National Park, tragedies like today’s elementary school shooting in Connecticut stir awful memories.
It was less than a year ago that his staff responded to a gunman in Mount Rainier National Park. When law enforcement ranger Margaret Anderson stopped the man, Benjamin Colton Barnes, on the morning of Jan. 1 she was shot and killed. Barnes fled into Rainier’s unforgiving wilderness where he was found dead, drowned in Paradise River, the next morning.
Some, including Young, believe Anderson’s actions may have prevented a Barnes from shooting park visitors at Paradise.
While park employees have spent the year trying to heal and trying to find ways to memorialize Anderson, Young says incidents like today’s shootings and Tuesdays’ shootings at the Clackamas Town Center near Portland remind him of how hard it is to recover from such a senseless tragedy.
“It’s unbelievable how much it affects people,” Young said. “Obviously Eric Anderson and his daughters’ lives are changed forever. But it affects the lives of the people who knew them, who worked with them and the people who visit here and think of Mount Rainier as a peaceful place.”
When Young hears the reactions of the witnesses and friends and families of the victims, their comments resonate with him because they sound so familiar.
“When you hear the interviews after these incidents the question that comes up is the same question we had,” Young said. “Why on earth would somebody choose to do what happened in Connecticut or what happened here? We will never answer the question because there is no rational answer.”