when I was 12 years old, my oldest brother, who was 20 at the time and living at home while attending community college, was brutally attacked in his bedroom by a close relative who was then 18 years old, who lived with us and whom we knew was neurotic and emotionally unstable but never suspected was seriously mentally ill and capable of suffering a psychotic break during which he grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen and stabbed my oldest brother repeatedly before being hit on the head with a book by our mother, who had heard my oldest brother's screams and rushed into the room.

the attacker literally 'snapped out of it' and came to his senses and, realizing what he'd done, rushed my oldest brother and our mother to the hospital emergency room in the family car. there, while my oldest brother was rushed into surgery and our mother prayed, the attacker called the police, told them what he'd done, and waited for them to arrive and arrest him and take him away.

because my dad and another older brother liked to go hunting for rabbit and squirrel as my dad had done with his dad, there were two hunting rifles in our house, both in the back of my parents' bedroom closet. they were never loaded and the bullets were under lock and key.

the attacker almost murdered my oldest brother, who was stabbed multiple times in the right hand (which he almost lost) and the arms (all defensive wounds) and in the stomach and side. his bedroom looked as if someone had dipped a brush into a bucket of blood and flicked it against the walls, where it had dripped into lines of dried droplets, as well as flinging it along the bookcase and books and dripping it onto the floor. there was also a bloody handprint on a hallway wall which somebody cleaned up before i got home from school a little later on.

it was a horrific, bloody, violent act by a mentally ill young man who did not ask to be mentally ill and violent and would never have done such a thing if not for what more than one psychiatrist has indeed termed a 'psychotic break.' the attacker was, i assure you, not an evil man, but a sick one. even so, the attack was vicious and my oldest brother almost died. he was in the hospital for weeks. he has been left-handed since. he still has scars on the palm of his right hand and arms and stomach but they've faded tremendously over the years and are barely noticeable anymore.

and my oldest brother is alive. and so is the man who attacked him.

my oldest brother has been a teacher for almost 30 years now, is married to a teacher and has two kids in college. the man who attacked him all those years ago received mental health care during incarceration and has for over two decades been a successful business professional with a good reputation within the community and his church and the cancer-oriented organizations with which he has worked since the diagnosis two years ago, and death this past year, of his wife of over 20 years.

had the young man who attacked my oldest brother had access to an assault rifle, which is basically a machine gun, as have so many young men just like him in recent years, there is absolutely no doubt that my oldest brother would have been dead these past 40 years, probably along with my mother and my twin brother and youngest brother, who were both home sick from school at the time of the attack, as well as perhaps any number of the rest of us seven brothers (including me, of course) who came home from school or work at different times during the day, as well as our dad, as well as anyone else who might have come to the door or walked down the street, as well as who knows how many police officers, as well as the attacker himself, who at some point would have come out of the psychotic fog into which he'd descended during that afternoon (he was fine in the morning) and would have doubtless committed suicide as mass shooters usually do — possibly because they've just come out of some psychotic fog to the realization of what they've done.

thankfully, none of the rest of 'what might have happened' did happen in, or to, my family, on that day 40 years ago. we were able to move on with our lives as individuals, and as a family, because no one died that day.

and in the years that have passed since that day, there has been great physical, mental, emotional and 'spiritual' healing which would not have been possible had the attacker [to whom my oldest brother and the rest of us have long since been reconciled, and who is and will forever be a part of our lives and our family, because he is another one of our brothers (there are seven of us)] had access to a gun instead of a knife.

© 2012 Christopher Corbett-Fiacco

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