I made the mistake of following one of those click-bait links on Facebook that contained ‘photos with disturbing back-stories.’ The tag-line did not lie; the photos were disturbing as were the back-stories.
Most of the pics depicted individuals moments before something heinous was about to happen to them. I’d rather not include the links, because I’m sure you can find them on your own, but the stories that have stayed with me are Tara Calico’s and Regina Kay Walters’, not just because the stories are tragic, haunting, horrific, but also because the photos are visceral and are as difficult to process as they are to forget.
Neither Calico’s nor Walters’ stories are new; the photos have been around for twenty-five years, and I suspect floating around the internet for some time. I had missed them. These types of stories—sensationalistic as they may be—impact me differently now that I’m a parent. Whereas I would have once put myself in the place of the victim, I now can only think of my own children snared in these same situations, and my heart breaks not just for the victims but for the parents.
Not being able to protect your children from harm is the greatest fear a parent shoulders, and to live that reality, to have that fear manifest, would be excruciating.
This same week, Andreas Lubitz allegedly murdered one-hundred and forty-nine people, and killed himself, by piloting Germanwings Flight 9525 into the French Alps. We don’t yet know (and we may never know) why Lubitz allegedly did what he did, although the evidence is pointing to struggles with anxiety and depression and, what, narcissism? God complex? (There’s more than depression at work, that’s for sure.)
Anyway, I’ve been unable to find compassion for the perpetrators, for Lubitz and in the Walters’ case, Robert Ben Rhoades (we may never know who was behind Calico’s disappearance). Lubitz and Rhoades are, of course, someone’s children. They are us, though we don’t wish to acknowledge it. Was Lubitz unable to accept his mental issues? Was Rhoades unable to positively process his sexual drives? Had either man been able to acknowledge his vulnerabilities, his failings, his humanity, would the outcome have been different?
I admit I struggle to find in situations where the person—the human—commits acts of such blatant horror anything resembling redemption or forgiveness. And maybe that’s not the task here. Maybe the task is simply to acknowledge that we as individuals owe the world and those around us the attempt to accept ourselves so that we don’t negatively impact everyone else. It’s on us to look honestly and without fear at what we are capable of and to find ways to process what we find. We can’t expect others to do this for us. We can’t punish the world for what we lack.
By the by, in researching Rhoades, I found this excellent article.