“She could not know that the future would be so ugly.”
University of Texas at Austin and killed fourteen people with a sniper rifle, resulting in, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting in US history. Earlier that morning, before the attack, Whitman not only killed his mother, Margaret, but also his wife, Kathy Leissner.
This March, we published “Listening to Kathy,” an essay by Jo Scott-Coe, which chronicled the brief life and untimely death of Kathy Leissner, and the impact of her loss upon the Leissner family, including her brother Nelson, and the tight-knit community of Needville, Texas.
In this essay commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the UT shooting, Jo Scott-Coe revisits “Listening to Kathy,” provides a fresh perspective in the wake of the gun-related tragedies in Orlando, Baton Rouge, San Bernadino, and Dallas, and highlights the violence too often aimed at women by their intimate partners.
Don’t leave me. Don’t hurt me. I don’t want to be a problem.
During twenty-five years teaching, I’ve witnessed hundreds of young women and men trying to find the best place to be themselves. Trying not to lose it when the world feels mad. I’ve seen the surreptitious texts that lead to quick exits from the classroom, the worried frowns in a side row desk, the split lip, the tears, the flashes of frustration or temper. Sometimes I hear their stories, help them find resources. Sometimes they push away or simply disappear.
I wish I could have met Kathy in person instead of on paper. I wish I could say to her: It was never your fault. You didn’t fail. You have friends on the other side.
Jo Scott-Coe’s first book, Teacher at Point Blank, was listed as a “Great Read” by Ms. Magazine. Her nonfiction has appeared in many venues, including Salon, Cultural Weekly, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, Ninth Letter, and The Los Angeles Times. A graduate of the MFA program at the University of California Riverside, Scott-Coe currently works as an associate professor of English at Riverside City College. She also teaches community writing workshops for the Inlandia Institute. Her second book, MASS, is forthcoming from Writ Large Press in summer 2016.