The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Robin L. Quillon

August 12, 2012

Robin L. Quillon | When young lives are wasted

— “There goes the rest of my life. I’m only 21 years old!”

That is what William Cramer, an inmate at the Cambria County Prison, charged with strangling his cellmate to death, said to a corrections officer.

Lately, our pages have been filled with stories of tragedy – extortion, arson, robbery, drunken driving, embezzlement, and murder and mass murder.

The optimist in us opines, “Stop it! We don’t like to read such stories!” And yet we are drawn to them like moths to a flame.

Maybe reading about the misfortune of others in some way is cathartic for us. I don’t know.

In vain, we try to make sense of senseless acts. We look into the mugshot eyes of those who are accused of committing such crimes and pass quick judgment. We mutter angrily and say things such as, “Hang them now.”

We pigeonhole offenders of all races with impunity, saying things we’d never utter in public.

Are we justified with such attitudes?

You decide.

These stories indeed are absolute tragedies, not only for the victims, but what of the shattered hopes and dreams of those who commit such crimes? Can we muster a morsel of sympathy for them?

“There goes my life. I’m only 21 years old!”

Mothers and fathers mourn for what could have been in the lives of the wayward. They fondly remember the promising days of their young, freckled-faced sons and daughters. They remember their first step, their first everything, firmly confident then that life would turn out wonderful for their child.

Parents drag themselves over the white-hot coals of what if, only to find themselves right back where they started.

Happiness is the byproduct of choices we make every moment of any given day, as each of us struggles to live up to our full potential.

Sadly, some fall far short.

“There goes the rest of my life. I’m only 21 years old!”

Can we, should we, learn on William Cramer’s dime?

I say yes.

I am reminded of a parable told by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who is a general authority with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

“There once was a man whose lifelong dream was to board a cruise ship and sail the Mediterranean Sea. He dreamed of walking the streets of Rome, Athens and Istanbul. He saved every penny until he had enough for his passage. Since money was tight, he brought an extra suitcase filled with cans of beans, boxes of crackers and bags of powdered lemonade, and that is what he lived on every day.

“He would have loved to take part in the many activities offered on the ship – working out in the gym, playing miniature golf and swimming in the pool. He envied those who went to movies, shows and cultural presentations. And, oh how he yearned for the taste of the amazing food he saw on the ship. Every meal appeared to be a feast!

“But the man wanted to spend so very little money that he didn’t participate in any of these. He was able to see the cities he had longed to visit, but for the most part of the journey, he stayed in his cabin and ate only his humble food.

“On the last day of the cruise, a crew member asked him which of the farewell parties he would be attending. It was then the man learned that not only the farewell party but almost everything on board the cruise ship – the food, the entertainment, all the activities – had been included in the price of his   ticket.

“Too late the man realized he had been living far beneath his privileges.”

“There goes the rest of my life. I’m only 21 years old!”


 Robin L. Quillon is publisher of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at

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Robin L. Quillon

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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