We live in a quiet little city, on the fringes of "The Greater Metro Area". 20 minutes of driving, and you can be most anywhere you want to be: world-class museums, the opera, the ballet, the symphony, shopping, parks, playgrounds, sporting events and restaurants - almost any cuisine you are in the mood for.
It's a great little town to raise a family in; the schools are famous for the quality of education, and our high school's teams regularly bring home the trophies. And, until this week, we had one of the lowest crime rates for a city of it's size.
You can stand on our front porch, and see the back side of the house where it happened. A whole family, murdered just one street over.
For the last two days, there has been a solid parade of cars up and down our street. They drive slowly, trying to peer between the houses, to see... I don't know what... something.
I can't understand this. I can't imagine the thought process that goes into this. At what point in the evening do you turn to your spouse and say "Gee honey, dinner was great, and the movie doesn't start for another 45 minutes or so... Let's go see if we can look at the house where the whole family died!" ENTIRE FAMILIES fill the cars; they show the children - point out the window - and they all gawk at what little they can see.
I was standing in our front yard last night, talking to our next-door neighbor. Another neighbor from across the street joined us. M has lived here for 24 years; he was one of the first to move in, when the streets weren't even paved yet. B has lived here for 15 years; we remember when she brought her youngest home from the hospital as a newborn. We bought our house from my mom after my dad died & she remarried; a member of our family has always lived in this house for the last 23+ years. It is a stable, solid community we live in; there are more families on our street who are the original owners of their homes than not; when a house is placed for sale here, it doesn't last for long. As we talked, and watched the endless traffic flow by on our normally peaceful street, we noticed that many of the cars were going by more than once; there was a blue Chevy Suburban that made the trip up and down the street no less than six times.
We didn't know the murdered family. I'll be the first to admit that - they lived one street over, and had not lived here long. But that makes this no less tragic. The family member who came home and found them certainly will never think of it as great entertainment on a weekend evening. The extended family members who must now try to live without their loved ones will never feel that way. The veteran police officers, shaken by what they saw will never see it that way.
The Greater Metro media has dispatched satellite trucks; there is one for every major television network. We can hear the generators, and see the lights for the live remotes at night. The solemn-looking reporters stand in front of the floodlit cul-de-sac, and mouth inane phrases about the "quiet, peaceful neighborhood" and the "shocked and concerned neighbors". They troll our streets, looking for people who will talk on camera about it; hoping for any sensational little bit of information that they can turn into an "exclusive" for the next newscast.
The police have sought to reassure us; to tell those of us living here that we are safe, and that it appears that the family had to have known whoever it was that murdered them. They are working as hard and as fast as they can; they have been there around the clock since the bodies were discovered on Friday morning.
But I think what bothers me more than not knowing who killed our neighbors (and why) is this rather detached, gruesome fascination that complete strangers seem to have with the whole thing. I realize that until know our little town has never had *anything* this sensational, this shocking happen. I know all about the "gapers block" that develops on the highway when there is an accident. I guess I have just never experienced it this closely, for this long.
Our subdivision, our neighborhood, our block has been turned upside down by this. And I suppose what is most striking to me at the moment is how this has resonated across our entire little community. One terrible crime, committed against one family, has rippled out through our neighborhood in ways I would have never imagined.
Before Friday morning, we lived on a quiet, tree-lined street. Tonight we live adjacent to a crime scene.
Hometown, upside down.