Another Columbia County teenage girl is dead from a gunshot fired by another teenage Columbia County boy, the third time in less than two years. On the other side of the county, a 79-year-old woman has died after being pulled from a burning home.
And up in the northeast, grief takes a much larger scale as dozens are dead and thousands are homeless from the devastating "monster" storm, hurricane Sandy.
Still, on Tuesday millions will pause to vote for people they believe can best represent their interests in our form of government. Most won't participate at all, however, and not because of grief or devestation - but just because of laziness, apathy or confusion.
The "confusion" part is what continues to be such a puzzle. We'd like to believe all the information the media provides on candidates and issues would be helpful, but it often collides with candidates' campaign ads that seem to conflict with reality.
Prospective voters hear claims from each side in a race, or from multiple entities ganging up on behalf of some issue or cause that they believe their candidate will support. The ensuing clamor, rather than clarify, seems to just raise the volume of static.
As a result, far too many voters become paralyzed with doubt. They either don't vote at all out of frustration, or flip a coin to vote for "the lesser of evils."
Neither is a very comforting sign for how we choose our government.
Rarely has this been more apparent than in this year's choice in the 12th District congressional race. Under ordinary circumstances, most Columbia County voters would reliably - too reliably, many would contend; no one should be taken for granted - vote for the Republican in a race against a Democrat. So reliable is that vote that Democrats rarely even bother to put up a candidate on the local level. John Barrow, the Democratic incumbent in the 12th District, visited the county only a low-key time or two. He was campaigning elsewhere when the local Democrats opened their Maytag repair center, also known as a campaign headquarters.
Yet I have heard from more people - many of them smart, politically informed and savvy - in this election who are frustrated at their inability to make what otherwise would be the expected choice of the Republican candidate.
That's largely because of the tremendous static from wall-to-wall political ads from Anderson, Barrow and organizations supporting or opposing the two of them. It's difficult to make a decision when you find yourself standing in a crowd of people screaming at each other.
That's how I felt as a kid the first time I visited The Varsity in Atlanta. I'd never had much fast food until then, and when I got to the register and was faced with the cashier yelling "What'll ya have what'll ya have what'll ya HAVE!" I froze - and had to step out of line, embarrassed, to let the less-stressed and more-experienced place an order.
Electing leaders is far more consequential than ordering a chili dog. But the heartburn of a bad choice lasts far longer. That's perhaps why so many people are having such a hard time making up their mind.
The confusion isn't about Barrow. Though he's a chameleon, they know he's a chameleon. There's no mystery.The confusion is about Anderson. We know him well in Columbia County, and clearly like him personally. We've elected him repeatedly to all levels of government over the years, first as a Democrat and more recently as a Republican, to school board, county commission and the state Legislature.
There is an undeniable squeamishness, however, about elevating him to Congress. I know because I'm hearing it in spades from Republicans, many of whom would publicly and vehemently deny it but who in private are voting for Anderson only with crossed fingers and absence of enthusiasm. They're hoping that if he wins, he won't be an embarrassment - as he was, for example, in the Statesboro debate in which he clearly showed he had no idea what the Federal Reserve is.
It's also troubling that the greatest quality of Anderson seems to be that he'll simply replace a Democrat vote with a (they hope) reliable Republican vote in Comgress. That, alone, has become their primary reason for voting for Anderson: not that he is the best the Republicans from the 12th District have to offer, but he has been whittled down to the only thing, in Tuesday's election, that the Republicans have to offer in this particular race.
What'll ya have? We'll find out Tuesday. Keep the Rolaids handy.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email email@example.com, or call 706-868-1222, extension 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/barrypaschal.)