Today will mark the seventh day since a nearby community awoke to the horror of domestic violence in its worst form. Last Tuesday we found out that a local man entered the home of his in-laws and brutally murdered his estranged wife, mother-in-law and seventeen year old son, wounded his father-in-law and took his own life. We see this type of event on the news way too often, but until now it has always been in some far away place, a city on the map we might of heard of before, but the names were always unfamiliar.
This time the names were anything but. I went to school with the slain wife. We went to football games at the local high school with each member of the family. My daughter sat at the same lunch table every day with the young man whose life was snatched away prematurely. My wife had served each of the members, save the husband in her capacity as a cosmetologist.
We knew these people and the effect of this senseless act was felt more significantly because of its impact on the community as a whole. The difficulties the family experienced were known far and wide. The teenager was part of the football team and my daughter’s boyfriend recounted too many stories about the abuse perpetrated by the father, not only on the son, but the mother as well.
The impact of this will spawn ripples for weeks, months and even years to come. It will be an event similar to those across the country in which gun violence sparked a call to action. There is some discussion about a change to the laws such that a restraining order against someone should include a removal of all firearms from the target of the restraining order.
But beyond that, many people are dealing with the interactions they had with the one who perpetrated this act of violence, recounting the actions and words of his last few days. Words that in hindsight precluded his intentions, but were not so clear as to spawn undue concern.
What concerns me most is the guilt so many friends have expressed since the news broke early last Tuesday. As I said, people knew about the abuse, and while I have no knowledge about the specific ways someone might have tried to intervene, in the end there was nothing anyone could do to prevent this.
A court order was not enough to stop a man bent on having his way. We fool ourselves if we think we can depend on people to honor the ideas and tenets of the law like they did in the past. There is a lack of respect for authority and also an overbearing desire to have every want realized. The father saw his family slipping away and he tried to force them to conform to his ideas of continuing. In the end there was no other choice in his mind.
Now the community is left to deal with the aftermath. That means a high school full of teens who until last week felt death was far away. Another high school missing it’s drama teacher who brought the arts alive for her charges. A college mourning the loss of a favorite supporter and a neighborhood with the specter of a home where lives were lost.
Time heals all wounds, that is something all of us know. But I fear it will be many moons before this chapter of our community’s history is woven into the fabric of time.