It is awful to imagine the terror and brutality that invaded Sean Taylor's home in the middle of the night.
Taylor, awakened by suspicious noises, tried to protect himself, his girlfriend and their baby by grabbing a machete hidden under his bed. But he had no chance. He was shot in the groin by an intruder, the bullet ripping through his femoral artery. He lost a tremendous amount of blood. He is hanging on, in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center.
Taylor, the Washington Redskins safety and former University of Miami All-American, was sidelined because of a knee injury and had come home to visit. Now, it's not his career, but his life that's in the balance.
His family was thrust into the surreal glare of the Intensive Care Unit and the grim limbo of the waiting room. They're fighting, too, wielding hope against panic.
How cruel that Taylor, 24, had finally and deliberately sought calm in his turbulent young life only to be visited by violence. The gunman is at large. The motive is a mystery, although Taylor's house on Old Cutler Road had been broken into eight days before the attack early Monday.
One of the rescuers who treated the bleeding Taylor was fire battalion chief George Mira Jr., a UM linebacker 20 years ago. Mira has seen too many ghastly crime scenes but never one in which a fellow Cane was the victim.
UM football players are linked by a tradition of winning championships. But they are also linked by a history of losing their Hurricane brothers. A passionate sense of loyalty has been a major reason for UM's success. It's the soft side of the program that those who have unfairly labeled it refuse to see. Current players are entrusted to uphold the standards and lore of their predecessors. Former players are entrusted to nurture and push their successors.
And so when one Cane hurts, they all do.
The list of tragic incidents to befall UM grows again, just more than one year after senior defensive tackle Bryan Pata was slain at his apartment complex in Kendall. His killer is still on the loose. Police need a new lead.
UM linebacker Marlin Barnes and a friend were beaten to death at his campus apartment in 1996. Shane Curry, a lineman for the Colts, died violently when he was shot in the head outside a Cincinnati bar in 1992. Jerome Brown, Al Blades, Kevin Gibbs and Chris Campbell died in car accidents. All these men were in their 20s.
The news of Taylor's shooting is sure to cause a new round of labeling. UM cannot shake its national reputation as a team of outlaws in a dangerous place. Perceptions, no matter how outdated, persist. In the good old, bad old days, UM courted its renegade image with camouflage get-ups, six-shooter touchdown celebrations, a cash pot for hard hits. Much of the swagger was misinterpreted by humorless people with quaint ideas about sportsmanship. But the tragedy and violence off the field could not be ignored.
Miami, the city, endured similar stereotyping. This was the land of riots, cocaine cowboy vendettas, shopping-mall shootouts at Dadeland and Suniland, tourist murders. Paradise Lost, remember?
The UM football team, like Miami, has had to live down its reputation, reinvent itself as clean and benign.
With leadership, imagination and discipline, the Hurricanes regained respect. But what happened to Taylor will reinforce negative opinions of football fans and recruits who were wary of UM and Miami.
Taylor, known for his savage hits, also was known for brushes with the law, in particular his 2005 arrest for brandishing a gun at people he accused of stealing his ATV. After a fight, his sport-utility vehicle was hit with 15 shots. Felony charges were dropped and he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery.
Taylor, the son of Florida City Police Chief Pedro Taylor, was making the same effort UM and Miami had made, to clean up his act and find peace. In the middle of a terrible night, he was interrupted.