Written in Ink

The Public Portrait of a Survivor

Cassidy Stay, the sole survivor of the Texas killing rampage that decimated her entire immediate family, attended a memorial a mere three days after the massacre. The fifteen year-old spoke to the crowd about angels having helped her through the ordeal and then she released balloons in her family's memory.

The story of these murders has been about six levels above shocking, even in an era where there is a "lone gunman" rampage roughly once per month. Her whole family is gone. Four young siblings and her parents inconceivably tied up and murdered by an estranged former in-law. One child making it through by sheer luck of the bullet trajectory and by being possessed of the unbelievable frame of mind to play dead until she could contact police.


However, the video of this incredible girl arriving at the memorial is a little weird. (See video at the embedded Yahoo link.) She is shown waving at onlookers through the sunroof of the car she is riding in "like a beauty queen being welcomed home", as the reporter of the local news story put it. Beaming broadly, she spoke at the event about being helped through it by recalling the words of Dumbledore, which I can relate to, because I was going through a hard time a few summers ago—nothing even remotely comparable to what she has endured—and those books were a distraction and a deep comfort. But it looked as though she were almost about to receive some sort of scholastic award of achievement.

She's got a long road ahead, this one. I can't imagine that the image we are seeing of a happy and well-adjusted survivor is what she is and what she will be at all times over the next few weeks and years as normalcy is sought and milestones marked. I am reminded of how Elizabeth Smart seemed to overcome her own ordeal with such incredible grace and so, so quickly. So publicly. How do these kids do that when it takes me days to get over a stubbed toe?


To be clear, it is not my intention to criticize the way that people are grieving. I have gone through enough death in my life to know that everyone does it differently and that is the one thing we are entitled to when we mourn. It's just that I watched the video, mouth agape, wondering why she was smiling, why she was waving, why the onlookers felt that this display, their applause at her arrival at the memorial, was appropriate. And then I felt bad for thinking these things. Because I do have a tendency to be a judgmental prick-ette.

I'm elated that the guy was caught alive and will be prosecuted. There is no justice when a perpetrator of a terrible crime kills himself, as so many of these gun-toting cowards seem to do. I want him to hear his crimes repeated over and over again in a courtroom and then I want him to be led off to prison for a long life of never-ending boredom and solitude and locked doors.


And I want her to have a long life of happy moments from here on out. She certainly deserves it. So I'm not exactly sure then what my problem is, that I'm so surprised at how at peace she already seems to be. She spoke about how her parents are in "a better place", so is it about a belief in god? Could it really be that simple?

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