On Tragedy and Escape

This is an essay by Alicia Murphy Monk.

Tragedy strikes. You question everything. The “what ifs” consume you. Eventually, you’re expected to go back to work, but all you can think about is what happened.

I work at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont, Texas. On March 14, 2012, someone decided to try to kill his daughter and his ex-wife and anyone else in his way. This all happened outside the courthouse where I work.

He succeeded in hurting several people and killing an innocent lady.  He made several attempts to enter the courthouse during the early morning hours when a few people, including myself, are starting their work day.

I think it’s natural, but the “what ifs” take hold of your mind. “What would have happened if I would have been out there? What if he came in here with the gun?”  That’s all you can think about. You need escape.

Then I started reading The Hunger Games.

Let me preface this part of my story with my original thoughts of The Hunger Games. Brandon, his brother, and just about everyone else I know said that I should read these books. I refused. I was not going to be seen reading them because I do not read young adult novels. I typically do not read fiction and certainly do not read about made up dystopian societies where children kill children.

When I would think about young adult novels, I would think of Twilight. The Hunger Games would never be a book on my radar screen, let alone my book shelf.

I finally got so fed up with everyone telling me to read it, I downloaded the first chapter and read it. From there, I could not stop reading. I went from page to page soaking up the detail.

The next day I started on the second book of the trilogy, Catching Fire. Two days later I cracked open Mockingjay.

I could not stop reading these books. My every waking thought became consumed by something else. Someone’s tragedy, but not the tragedy nearest me. A fictional tragedy. After I started reading The Hunger Games, I did not think of the shooting that happened on the courthouse grounds. I felt relieved. The “what ifs” were replaced with “what is going to happen to Katniss and Peeta?” The anxiety went away and it was liberating to be completely absorbed and speed read through a book. The feeling of not being able to turn the page fast enough was exhilarating.

At some point I forgot how good it felt to read the day away. To take a break. To break up my reading with naps. I am grateful that The Hunger Games took away the anxiety and just let my mind rest from the stress.

I guess if I’m guilty of anything, it’s of the cliche, judging a book by its cover. Fortunately, the judgment paid off because when I needed it most it was there for me, for escape.

So as you anticipate your next read, let me make one wish for you. May you be as lucky as me. May you find the right book at the right time. May the book you find save you from what you need to be saved from. To quote The Hunger Games, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” They were in mine in more ways than one.


From Brandon: Alicia is my wife. She is the love of my life. No one was more scared that day than I was. I feel blessed to have her in my life. The fact that she ignores my reading suggestions on a daily basis only serves to increase my love for her.

Photo: Some rights reserved by PopCultureGeek.com


  1. Ruth Chambers

    Alicia, great post. Books do take us worlds away and soothe our anxieties. I am not “into” y.a. books, have never read or seen anything about Harry Potter. My daughters are avid fans. I’ve not been tempted by The Hunger Games despite enthusiasm by friends. Your post, however,tempts me to try a chapter. I don’t know . . . I’m reading “The Things They Carried,” and that’s a tough act to follow.

    Isn’t it a great feeling to be the love of someone’s life, especially someone like Brandon? BTW, my husband and I have very differnt tastes in reading material.

  2. Read.Learn.Write

    I love “The Things They Carried.” Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Alicia

    Ruth –

    Thank you for the wonderful comment. And yes, it is a great feeling. I couldn’t ask for a better partner!

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