Showing posts with label mass shooting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mass shooting. Show all posts

09 May 2019

A Toast to The Survivors


by Eve Fisher

In "The Kindest Cut" (from the book Never Sniff a Gift Fish) the immortal Patrick F. McManus writes about how much hunters love to talk about how they got that scar.  Endlessly.
"I have heard some scar stories approximately the length of Churchill's A History of the English Speaking Peoples, but such brevity is rare."
The trouble for the hunters is, to get a chance to talk about a scar, etiquette (yes we're back to that again) requires that
(1) someone ask (most experienced hunters know better),
(2) it be relevant to the conversation (and most hunters apparently can make it relevant - "Speaking of boats, I've got quite a story about my thumb...") and
(3) it be visible.
Pity the poor person (like Retch Sweeney) who gets a scar on his hiney - no one's going to ask, it's embarrassing to mention, and hard to display, even in unmixed company.

But one thing doctors are good at, is asking about old scars.  I have a story (you knew it was coming) about my shin.  I was having x-rays on my knees (arthritis), and the x-ray technician asked me if I'd ever been in some kind of, uh, well, brawl?  Or had an accident?  Because I've got a half-inch dent - he showed it to me - in my shin bone.  Answer:  Field hockey.  Generations of hysterical middle-school girls, armed with hard sticks and even harder balls, but without shin guards, have been, are, and will be cheerfully sent out in one more attempt to cull the herd.  Someone slammed a hard ball right into my shin, and I was out of the game for the rest of that day.  But back then nobody x-rayed it, just checked that I could actually move my ankle, and I was back to out on the field the next week.  Just left a permanent dent - in my bone - to mystify my future doctors.

I have a few other scars, but most of them are from falling - off a fence I was trying to climb (split my lip on some barbed wire on the way down), down a trail, on a rock, into a mess of cactus, etc.  Nothing dramatic.  And that was the norm for most of the people I knew.

That changed when I started volunteering in prison, where tattoos and scars rival each other for commonality.  But inmates generally don't brag or even talk about either one.  Occasionally I'll ask.  One inmate I know well - a big, burly guy - has a scar on both sides of his forearm, running one-quarter to half an inch deep, 2 inches wide, and running about 4-6 inches long.  He's had tattoos over it, but they certainly don't hide it.  One day I finally asked him if it was a burn.  Nope.  Gunshot.

Now I honestly did not know that getting shot could leave that big a scar for that long.  I don't think most people know that (non-military, non-EMTs, non-police).  I think most people get their information about gunshots from TV and movies where, as Doolin' Dalton (Brian Thornton) pointed out in his "Shoulder Wounds", all gunshots are flesh wounds that leave no scars at all and don't slow anyone down.  But that is total BS.  Let's start by checking out this article from New York Magazine, complete with pictures.

This is Anthony Borges, shot 5 times, and still wearing a colostomy bag.  He "barricaded a door to a classroom to protect other students, saving as many as 20 lives. Was the last of the injured to leave the hospital."  From his words:

"I was in the hospital for like two months. I wasn’t bored — the pain wouldn’t let me get distracted. It was all over my body, not just where I’d been shot. Imagine that someone stabbed you with a knife and wouldn’t take it out, would just push it in.  The physical therapy is helping a lot. A lot of the exercises are like the things you do before a soccer game. Still, I can’t feel my left foot. I’ve gotten skinnier, and when I stand up, I have trouble breathing. The goal is just to be able to move my entire body normally. I can’t run, and I want to run."

I hope you can run some day, Mr. Borges.  And that the pain will stop.  And that nothing bad ever happens to you again.

According to the CDC, every year about 80,000 people survive gunshot wounds, about twice as many as actually are killed by gun violence.  Jeff Asher - New Orleans reporter and crime analyst - wrote, that "Shootings are a better measure of gun violence than murders are. There is a lot of randomness in what happens once a bullet leaves a gun — whether someone lives or dies depends heavily on luck. Focusing just on murder leaves out all the people who could have died. And it ignores the life-changing injuries and emotional trauma that often accompany nonfatal shootings."   (HERE)

Sheriff Israel visits victim Anthony Borges.[62]
Speaking of life-changing injuries, did you know that gunshot wounds require a lot of inpatient care, follow-up surgeries and other treatments, mental healthcare, rehabilitation and skilled-nursing care, durable medical equipment, personal care, and living costs while the patients are not able to work?  And that very little of this is covered by health insurance?  See Modern Health Care to understand how dire your situation will be if you ever become a victim of a shooting.

Reminder:  We live in an age of very high deductibles and coinsurance requirements, which is fine when you don't have much in the way of health care troubles.  That can change quickly.  Look at Mr. Borges.

And it is indeed random.  The inmate I spoke of earlier wasn't shot in the course of committing a crime.  He was the victim of a drive-by shooting.  And, lest you think that all drive-bys involve punks and druggies standing around on a street corner, looking for trouble, I bring to your attention the 13-year-old girl who was injured in a drive-by shooting back in January in Houston, Texas.  In her bedroom.  In her bed.  As an officer pointed out, "We can't even say wrong place because she was in her room, at home, at nighttime, where she should be as a 13-year-old." Article here

Randomness is scary.  I think one of the reasons people read mystery and other crime fiction is because most of the randomness gets filtered out - ideally there's a motive, an investigation, an arrest, a conviction, and people come out of the tale feeling relieved that once again - good triumphed over evil. Or something similar thereto.  Even my characters do that.  In one of my (as yet unpublished) stories, Officer Grant Tripp's boss replies to the suggestion that a shooting was random, with, "Random?  In Laskin?  If it is, I'm moving to Gann Valley and raise sheep."

The truth is, most people I know can't bear the heavy weight of the reality of sheer randomness - luck - in life.  It's too frightening.  I know.  I agree.  And I have lived a wildly improbable life, with such levels of randomness and luck (how else do you go from homeless teenager to university professor?) that I can't ignore it.  I am, and have been, very, very, very lucky.

I know too many people who literally, through no fault of their own, if they didn't have bad luck, wouldn't have any luck at all.  And that terrifies me.  Because... it makes no sense.

And I also know others who have, in the immortal words of P. J. O'Rourke, "farted through silk" their entire life, with the result that they know that bad things only happen to bad people, and that they will never be in that kind of situation, because...  well, because they're delusional, but I never say that to their face.

And these very lucky people are usually the ones who say stuff like:

Memorials to victims outside the Tree of Life synagogue
Wikipedia
"Well, they must have done something to deserve it." (Going to church?  Or a synagogue?  Or school?)
"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time." (See above.)
"The shooter is/was mentally ill."  (SO WHAT?  Even if this is true - and I rank all mass shooters and suicide bombers at the same level of pathological toxic rage, which should be its own category under the DSM - it's still no excuse to kill people.)
"If I'd been there with a [insert weapon of choice here], I'd have stopped him."  (I don't trust 99% of the people who say this to actually do anything but pee their pants.  In fact, I don't trust anyone who actually says this, because you know and I know they're fantasizing out loud.)

The truth is, every day, a certain number of people in this country are shot.  Among those are survivors, left breathing, but with wounds that will scar them, affect them, hurt them, for the rest of their life.    Since apparently this is going to continue to happen for the foreseeable future, we need to come up with something more practical than just thoughts and prayers.  "Relatives and friends of many mass shooting victims, even those with good employer health benefits, have had to set up GoFundMe crowdsourcing donation sites to help with the bills. This raises the broader issue of how to enable people who are partly disabled to continue working, rather than giving them no alternative but to apply for Social Security Disability and Medicaid."  (Modern Health Care)

We need to face the fact that people who get shot are going to have aftereffects for years.  Hell, I'm getting cortisone shots now for the knee I blew out sliding down a mountain at 25, that no longer has any cartilage in it.  When I fell off a fence at 12 and got cut by barbed wire, that caused nerve damage that to this day lets me know when freezing cold weather is coming.  If that's what it's like for the little scars, what are the survivors of Parkland, 9/11, the Boston Marathon, etc., going through?

We need to come up with health care plans that won't bankrupt people like Mr. Borges and leave him in debt as well as scarred for the rest of his natural life.  Maybe a new sub-chapter of FEMA that would cover mass shootings in the same way that fire, hurricanes, and other disasters are covered.  A mass shooting is a disaster - just not a natural one.  Or is it?

Meanwhile, let us raise our glasses and toast:

"To all the dead - may they never be forgotten.  
To all the survivors - may they heal in body, mind, and soul.  
To all of us - that we may help the survivors on their path, remember how fragile life is, 
and do all in our power to make the victims fewer every year."

Image result for a toast

14 August 2017

The Land of Shady Habits


by Steve Liskow

I set my first mystery in Saginaw, Michigan, about 80 miles north of Detroit. While I shopped that around, I also worked on a series set in Hartford, CT, where I now live, and many people asked why my stories didn't take place in New York, Chicago, LA, or Boston. I told them there were already enough private eyes there to keep things under control. Twenty years ago, Robert Parker, Linda Barnes and Dennis Lehane all worked Boston. It's a wonder there was even a parking violation.

Rosemary Harris uses a fictionalized Southwest Connecticut and a couple of other writers have set an occasional mystery in the state (Thomas Tryon, a Hartford native, created a version of Old Wethersfield in The Other), but I don't know why we don't see more of them. The state has an energetic multi-cultural background--Irish, Italian, Polish, African, Hispanic--not even counting the original occupants. Manufacturing and the insurance industry flourished here, and the history offers truckloads of material.

So does crime. The two towns that still argue over which is the oldest one in Connecticut both have seen major foul play.

Wethersfield, on Hartford's southern border, still has a section called "Old Wethersfield," with colonial architecture, tall trees, and a cove that leads to the Connecticut River. Thomas Beadle, a merchant who contributed to the revolutionary war effort, lived along the cove with his wife and four children. When the Continental Congress devalued Connecticut scrip to 1/40 the face value to help finace the war, Beadle faced bankruptcy and disgrace. In December 1782, after months of planning and delay, he struck his wife in the head twice with an ax and cut her throat in their bedroom. He did the same to the children in their rooms, then wrote a suicide note, sat in his favorite chair with a pistol in each hand, and shot himself through the head. His act was the first mass murder in the American colonies.

Over a century later, Amy Archer-Gilligan
ran a nursing home in Windsor, which borders the northeast corner of Hartford, only about ten miles from Wethersfield. Although she was only tried and convicted for one death, she poisoned at lest five men.

In fact, between 1907 and 1917, sixty residents of her home died, mostly from stomach ailments.


Eventually, the court declared her insane and she spent years in an asylum, dying in 1962 at the age of 93. Her story inspired the popular play Arsenic and Old Lace. If it had become a TV movie, maybe they would have called it Gilligan's Trial.

The Nutmeg State boasts (?) other ground-breaking crimes, too (pun intended). In 1957, authorities captured George Metesky, AKA "The Mad Bomber," after he had planted over thirty bombs in the preceding decade. After years in prison, he died in Waterbury at the age of 90 (Crime in Connecticut appears to be connected to longevity). His arrest came about after one of the first uses of a psychological profiler, whose description proved remarkably accurate.

Wethersfield used to be the site of Connecticut's electric chair, where Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky was executed in 1960 after killing at least seven people in a series of liquor store robberies. His reign of terror caused package stores to close earlier in the evening than had been customary.



In September 1983, several Puerto Rican nationalists held up a West Hartford branch of Wells Fargo and escaped with over seven million dollars, the largest recorded haul in history at that time. By the time authorities tracked down the thieves, they'd spent most of the money on political activism.

A much darker first occurred in 1989. In Newtown, philandering airline pilot Richard Crafts went to prison for killing his wife Helle, the first time a Connecticut jury convicted a defendant for murder without the corpse being found. Prosecutors built a grisly chain of evidence about how Crafts destroyed the body, and the case is still notorious as the "Wood Chipper Murder." It may have inspired the scene in the Coen brothers film Fargo.

In 2005, Michael Ross became the first execution in Connecticut since Mad Dog Taborsky after a jury convicted him of raping and strangling at least eight women in Connecticut and New York. Ross, who looked slightly more dangerous than cotton candy, picked up most of his victims hitchhiking.







In central Connecticut, the Cheshire Home Invasion of July 2007 is still an open wound. Two career screw-up druggies battered Dr. William Petit in his home, forced his wife to withdraw money from a local bank as a ransom (The banks' surveillance video was evidence at the trial), then raped and killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, aged 11 and 17. The injured Petit managed to escape and alert police, who captured the fugitives within blocks of the house, driving Petit's car. Their trial and ultimate convictions aroused a movement to bring back the death penalty, which Connecticut had rescinded after Ross's execution. The movement failed.

In August 2008, Omar Thronton, fired for stealing beer from the Hartford Distributors in Manchester, entered the building with two 9 mm semi-automatics and killed eight co-workers before turning his guns on himself.

It's disturbing to notice how these tragedies seem to come more and more quickly. The most horrific of many school shooting rampages took place in Newtown, the home of the Crafts couple I mentioned above. On December 14, 2012, mentally disturbed Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 six-year-old students, five teachers and the school's principal. He shot himself when police answered the frantic 911 call, and his mother--who bought him the guns, including an assault rifle--was found shot to death in her home. Local Senator Chris Murphe is one of Congress's strongest voices for gun control, and President Barack Obama's private visits to each of the victims' families are now local legend.

I'm closing this installment with the story that made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Even if you don't follow football, you might have heard of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, a star athlete at Bristol Central high school (where one of my theater buddies used to teach English). Hernandez was convicted of murder in 2015. while in prison, he was tried for two more murders, but was acquitted. Five days after his acquittal, guards found him dead in his cell, apparently after hanging himself.

Yes, it's a grim list. But it gets even worse. Next time, I'll discuss a few more cases, all of which involved people I know. I even used a couple of them for stories...

07 November 2013

Enough is Enough


by Eve Fisher

(NOTE:  I'm sorry if I haven't responded to anything this week, but we upgraded computers, e-mail, and everything else.  Cyber-chaos at our place.  Back up and running.  I think...  And now, on with the blog:)

We've all said it:  "Enough is enough!"  And sometimes we've even followed through on it.  The question is, what triggers it?  I'm raising this question primarily because I just changed my email address for the first time in 17 years, but I think it has application for other things, like changing brands, leaving relationships, killing someone, going on a fiery rampage ending in death, doom and destruction...

Here's what happened with the email:  I'd been with Yahoo mail from the get-go, and it was fine, great, etc. - but then things started changing.  They tweaked here, tweaked there, and it seemed like every time I turned around there was a new feature that I had to learn (which I did), or if I wanted a mail without ads, or mail with lots of memory I had to pay for it (which I did), and then they changed the format and I had to get used to it (which I did), and it got slower and slower and froze up a lot, and I had to cope with that (which I did) and then, a member of this respected body and I exchanged a couple of e-mails and Yahoo somehow managed to conflate emails from someone else with ours into a senseless spam-like screed that was, frankly, the last straw.  So I changed my e-mail to g-mail.  I'm having to learn a whole new system - if anyone has a cheat-sheet on keyboard shortcuts for g-mail I'd appreciate it - but it's worth it because I'm done with the old system.  I am loyal through an amazing amount of thick and thin, but when I finally do get fed up and quit, I am not coming back...

But some people make other choices.  Like murder.  One of the things that has always interested me is when people decide they've had enough and have to kill someone.  The long slow burn...  which finally explodes.  The classic example is a murder that took place here in Madison a couple of years ago.  An old guy, a farmer in his 70's, came back to the town where he grew up and started knocking on doors.  The first door he knocked on was his brother's, but he was at a basketball game.  The second door he knocked on was a former high school classmate, retired English teacher, and when he answered the door, the old guy shot him in the face and killed him.  The reason?  Fifty-five years before, the teacher and the farmer had had a fight in the locker room of the gym, and the future teacher had thrown a dirty jockstrap at the future farmer and hit him in the face.  Everyone laughed.  The future farmer fumed.  And 55 years later...

But why did it take so long?  I have no idea.  I don't know what sparked it off.  I do know that he came intending to kill someone - he would have killed his brother if he was home, it seems out of pure jealousy and envy.  And if he had managed that, would he have gone on to the teacher's house?  Hard to say.  After he shot the teacher to death, he got in his car and headed out of town, back home, where he holed up until the police came for him.

That one, as I say, is a mystery to me, because it took so long.  Not so adolescent shooters - the Eric Harrises and Dylan Klebolds of the world - they're fairly easy (for me) to understand.  Adolescents live in a world of such terrible urgency:  if they do not have this (whatever or whoever it is), they will die.  If someone laughs at them, the humiliation will last forever.  And, since they know they are bulletproof, invincible, and resurrectible (the Tom Sawyer fantasy of being at his own funeral and surprising everyone afterwards is pretty universal), to take up arms against a sea of troubles - literally - is an tragically unsurprising solution.  I'm waiting to see if the LAX shooter - 23 years old these days can be just as adolescent as 14 - is of that ilk or is one of the militia types who have decided that war has been declared, and is going to fire the first shot.

File:Turnerdiariescover.jpgI've met a lot of militia types, here and elsewhere, thanks to my work in various court systems.  They are very chilling.  As one told me after the Timothy McVeigh bombing, "War has been declared."  When I said the children in the day-care weren't soldiers, he replied, "There are no innocent victims."  Their literature (see "The Turner Diaries") is all about killing everyone who doesn't meet their standards, to the point where you wonder if even in our weapons-rich environment, there really are enough bullets to get that job done.  I've read "The Turner Diaries" and other works, and the basic idea is that you have to arm, arm, arm yourself, and get ready to kill, kill, kill, because - as one survivalist screed said - "who would want to die in such a world"?  The logical fallacy being, of course, that somehow you're never going to die.  Ever.  You'll "win", and live forever, master of all you survey.  Again, adolescent thinking.

And that perhaps is the trouble.  So much of our media - video games, television shows, movies, websites - is all about marketing to teens, and has been for quite a while.  Facebook is in trouble because its teen share is dropping, but Twitter is rising.  Every business has to get that all-important teen audience.  Because they have money, and it burns a hole in their pockets.  (I remember the feeling...)  But if you market to adolescents, if all your entertainment and information is targeted specifically to lure, entertain, and keep adolescents as they are...  isn't what you get, more adolescents?  Perpetual adolescents?  Whose only solutions to life's many problems are those provided by a media that is keeping them perpetually adolescent?

When will we say enough is enough?