Much like everyone else I was shocked and appalled about the shooting in Aurora, CO. But, it wasn’t until this last weekend, when the names of the deceased were made public that I realized this shooting hit so very close to home with me. I learned that one of my friends and subordinates from days past in the Air Force, Rebecca Wingo, was among the victims of the shooter that night. I couldn’t believe it at first, my immediate thoughts were that it had to be someone else, it couldn’t have been her. But, unfortunately it was the same Rebecca. A piece inside me that remembered her from all those days we worked together over two years cried out. I would like to recount just what I remember about her in an attempt to at least shed some of the sadness inside myself at her loss.
I met Rebecca in 2000 on the operations floor where we both worked in Hawaii. We were both Chinese linguists at the time, having graduated the intense course at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Ca. I had gone through a few years before her and had another assignment under my belt. I was also getting ready to sew on my first NCO (non-commissioned officer) rank. She and I, along with several others worked the very, very, oh so very, slow graveyard shift from 4am to noon. At least that is what it was then. I have since been told they have changed it. I had already been in Hawaii for a year and was an aisle supervisor, basically I was the ranking Air Force linguist in my section for the shift. From the day I met her, at oh dark thirty my impression of her was that she was always irrepressibly happy and bubbly. She always greeted me, her operational supervisor, with a giant smile and cheerful words even when I could tell that something was bothering her. She never wanted to bog people down with drama or problems, she only wanted positive and happy things in her life. That is so hard for most people to do. I am not going to say she was incredibly drama free, because lord knows we had some discussions during all those dull hours, but as a general rule she tried to see the best of everything. She had things to talk about and asked many questions during some of our intensive conversations on life, family, the Air Force, life after the Air Force and many other conversations. Sometimes after work we would even go to PT together at the makeshift gym they had at the facility.
On the morning of September 11, 2001 we watched the second plane fly into the building together on live television at work. There we were in the midst of a coordinated attack on our country not knowing what to do. There were only three of us there in our section at that early Hawaii time and we spelled each other so we could all go take a quick break and alert our families sleeping at home before our work center became a whirlwind of activity and bodies. If nothing else I will remember that day clear as crystal until the day I die. Rebecca, myself, and Mike Swanson sat at the three nearest terminals so we could talk and see the television over by the watch center. We talked, watched the news, took umpteen million conflicting orders from people we had never seen before that day, and wondered if we were going to war and who might be attacking us. Rebecca had one of the best attitudes about it, better than I could have mustered that day.
I left in late 2002, on to another assignment. I only saw her one time after that, back in Hawaii, when I went to finish some work up with an Army unit. She was expecting her first child. I was so happy to see her and happy for her. We spent half an hour talking about old times, and work, and families. I didn’t see Rebecca again after that day until the news this last weekend. Like many military people, as we diverged further in our careers away from the time we served together we lost touch. Sadly, I will never get to say hello to her again, or swap family photos.
Sometimes life isn’t fair, the best people have the worst things happen to them and there is no way to explain why it happened the way it did. She did not deserve to die at the hands of some deranged goofball, but neither did the others who perished that night. There is no understanding, right now there is only mourning and a celebration of her life through the people she touched with her infectious happiness. I am crying as I finish this, but I suppose that is the way this has to end. Even though part of me is sad, I understand that verse in 2 Corinthians 5:8 -Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
See you again someday Rebecca.
A link to donate and raise money for her little girls: