By now probably everyone in the country has heard about the horrific murders and subsequent man-hunt for the murderer that happened in Seattle on Wednesday. I have lived in Seattle for almost 11 years, for the past three years in what some would consider a less-than ideal neighborhood, but never have I felt as terrified or unsafe as I did Wednesday. I think that knowing the murderer ended his own life has definitely helped me rest a little easier, but the fact remains that senseless shootings, and murders, have been happening more frequently in our beautiful city, especially over the past week. Being that they are such random shootings makes it all the more terrifying, who is the next victim? How can it be stopped?
The killer took a seemingly random path through the city, starting in north Seattle, where he shot five (and killed four) people in a cafe before heading to a neighborhood called "First Hill", which is just east of downtown, up the hill. He then shot and killed a women before taking her SUV to West Seattle. He left the SUV a block from our house and fled the scene.
Here is where I say I am beyond grateful that Iris and I weren't home. We likely would have been, but we were at the King Tut exhibit at the Seattle Center for a few hours. I didn't have my phone on in the exhibit and when we got out I noticed I missed a call from our friend/handyman, J, who was doing work at our house. I then checked facebook where I discovered all of the updates from our neighborhood's amazing blog. I then called my friend J. He said "don't panic, but here is what's going on". What was going on is that J was in our yard doing work. He noticed some helicopters overhead but didn't think much of them. Then several SWAT team members came through our gated fence, guns drawn, with a dog. I find it amazing that J was able to stay composed. He had no idea why they were there, his first thought is that someone thought he was trying to break in to our house or something. They told him to get in to the house immediately. J had to go around to the front yard to get in the house and then stayed inside surveying the action on the street for about 20 minutes. The SWAT team with their guns, dogs and black SUVS and vans with SWAT members hanging out the sides were driving back and forth down the street.
As this was happening I connected with Matt at work. He didn't have any info at the time because he had just gotten out of a meeting. After I got off the phone with him I figured out that Eloise's school was in lockdown. I later was told, by Eloise, that lockdown meant the doors were locked, the lights were turned off and they had to put paper over the windows of the school. The kindergartners in her classroom had to pee in a bucket since they couldn't leave the room-- as a side note, Eloise did think THAT part was pretty fun.
Iris and I finished up at the Seattle Center. I spent most of the time checking my phone and trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to hold back tears. I didn't want to scare Iris. We drove from there to Matt's work while we waited to hear when Eloise's school was releasing students and when we might be able to return home. I got a robocall from the school saying kids were being let out on time and we found out that Eloise's after-school program was running as scheduled so we didn't have to rush home. Matt, Iris and I made it back to West Seattle later in the afternoon to pick her up and head home. It was a little bizarre, nothing was amiss in our 'hood. I don't know what I was expecting. When I first read on the neighborhood blog that the police were "going through houses" I half expected to come home to find our house had been broken in to. It wasn't, and as far as I know, they didn't actually break in to anyone's house.
Shortly after we got home we read that the killer was found on the street about a mile and a half or so from our house and had shot himself in the head. First it was reported that he died, then that he actually survived the gunshot, then later, finally, that he ended up dying. With that news came some relief that we might be safe in our house, at least for the night. The reports began coming in that the same person was responsible for both the north Seattle and the First Hill shooting (at first no one thought they were connected) so we had no more reason to believe this dangerous killer was still at large in our 'hood. My caring and thoughtful sister-in-law and her husband got in touch with us to say we could come to their house for the night, which was so sweet. I have to say I was about ready to pack up and leave here for good.
The night brought exhaustion and relief . . . and tears. At bedtime Eloise began sobbing inconsolably for about half an hour. She said she wasn't scared about what happened that day, but she did have fears about being safe and bad things happening to her family. Seeing as how I have never seen Eloise fall apart like that, I believe that she was very scared about what she went through but didn't really have the words to verbalize her emotions.
Luckily in the morning she was fine, other than sleeping in a little later than usual. On the way to school she told me she thought that a bad guy with a gun had been outside of the school. Upon talking with a friend who has a child in Eloise's class, I found out that little girl thought the same thing. I don't know exactly what the kids were told, but am sad that they thought this person was literally right outside. As I write this I am watching my daughters play "lockdown" with the school of stuffies they are teaching. Play is important for processing, I know, but it hurts to hear and watch.
I have been following the news a bit and waiting, like everyone else, for the dots to start connecting in these murders, why this man did what he did and went where he went. And of course, what are the people in charge going to do to start keeping us safe. Little by little I read stories about the five people who lost their lives on Wednesday and struggle to imagine the gaping holes that have been left in the lives of those who loved them. The woman who was killed on First Hill was a mother of two. The loss is tremendous.