Thursday, February 07, 2008

Local Tragedy

We chose our little community very carefully. It's not without its problems, but it's a charming little place. Kirkwood is an old, beautiful community, established in 1853. There's a mixture of large houses and small in mixed neighborhoods, lots of homes with great character, tall shade trees, a thriving downtown area with shops and restaurants, and a distinct small town community feel in this quaint enclave in the St. Louis metro area.

But no place is perfect. There's one particular area of Kirkwood, Meacham Park, which is a traditionally African American community, and there have been tensions between residents of that area and city officials, for various reasons, some (in my opinion) quite valid.

One neighborhood resident grew particularly enraged about what he perceived as his ill treatment by the city council. (A federal judge disagreed with his claims.) After acting out at several meetings, he attended a council meeting tonight (perhaps in response to that judge's ruling) and made a final stand.

As the mayor began his opening remarks after the pledge of allegiance, this man shot and killed a police officer outside city hall. He went inside to where the meeting was taking place, and shot and killed another police officer, then opened fire on council members and city officials. 30 people were in attendance at the meeting, including a reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, so news of what happened got out quickly.

He shot seven people, killing five, before being killed by police. The two survivors are a local reporter, possibly hit in the hand by a ricochet, and the mayor, who is in critical condition at a local hospital.

Kirkwood authorities have decided not to release the names of the deceased tonight, to give them time to notify families, though our local Fox affiliate television station has irresponsibly shown pictures of those killed, not saying so explicitly, but drawing the obvious inference. (As we know, only two who were shot survived, X and Y, and we also know that these three people were also shot, so . . . )

It's horrifying that this happened so close to home, in our safe community. It's almost unbearably tragic to think of the families touched directly by this tragedy. It is also more personal than is comfortable. (And what distance would ever be comfortable, I wonder?) I read unofficial minutes from council meetings and subcommittee meetings, which helps me feel like I know some of these people more personally than I do. And all reports of what happened tonight mentioned the name of the Kirkwood Public Works Director Ken Yost as one of the shot. Ken is far more than just a name to me.

Ken was the webmaster for our church, Kirkwood First Presbyterian. He ran the amazing local recycling center and was an environmental activist. His wife is a church staff member, in charge of new members and mission work. She was one of the first people we got to know in our congregation when we joined more than 8 years ago, and they were both at our wedding. They are incredible people who walk the walk, and my heart is so full of pain for Ken's wife and son.

I feel a tendency to ramble on and on, a lack of perspective, and an inability to edit my thoughts properly into a cohesive message.

Someone I knew and respected a great deal was killed tonight. It's horrible. My prayers are with the families of all those killed and injured tonight. I feel powerless, and my prayers feel insufficient. I want to be actively doing something, anything to help. Unfortunately, there's little to be done now.

16 comments:

Krupskaya said...

When I saw where this was on the wire yesterday, I thought of you. I'm so sorry.

Orange said...

I'm sorry, Sarahlynn.

Beach/Vic said...

This is awful. I'm sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to all the families of those killed and injured.

Pink Shoes said...

This was breaking news in our metropolis last night, and I prayed. You, too, are in my prayers today.

Pink Shoes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy said...

Donna and I are thinking of you.

Chorus said...

So tragic. Thinking of you.

Lady Liberal said...

When I heard Kirkwood MO on the Today show this morning, my first thought was "oh my God, Sarahlynn!" I am relieved that you are safe, but so sad for your little community and your friend's family.
Thinking of you today- many hugs!
L.

Tracey said...

I am so sorry you were touched so personally by this in the loss of Ken. We were horrified, sitting glued to the TV and hearing the helicopters endlessly circling. It is so incredible to me that in the past few years we've lost three police officers to shootings, had Michael Devlin in our midst, and who knows what else. I am deeply saddened.

peripateticpolarbear said...

I am so sorry, Sarahlynn.

Beverly said...

My thoughts are with you. I saw this on the AOL news and didn't even click on it. Your personal story is a reminder that everything like this that you hear about affects real people.

Psycho Kitty said...

xo

brooke said...

sarahlynn -
reading your post reminded me of many of the same feelings i had in the aftermath of the va tech shootings. my prayers are with you as you process this very public but personal tragedy.

-brooke

Redhead Editor said...

I don't know what made me click on my Post bookmark Thursday night, but I did and watched this tragedy unfold bit by bit. It breaks my heart for my dear Kirkwood, and I want to be back there with my friends. Friday found Cookie's nephew in the same classroom as Connie's daughter. That's Kirkwood where these people live and attend school side by side amidst the tragedy. I knew Ken, although I did not know his wife, and my heart breaks for what that family has been through and is going through. What a dear man. Connie was a good friend of mine, and I never ever thought I would be touched by such violence. Thanks for blogging about this and giving me a place to come to since I'm not back home.

Mike Dorn said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Sarahlynn. I have fond memories of visiting my cousins in Kirkwood growing up, and appreciate your insights into the issues and concerns that may have led to this tragedy.

Bionic said...

I'm new to your blog, but wanted to say thank you for this wonderful post. I know we've all been inundated with coverage of this event on local TV, but it is comforting and nice to see it covered so well on your blog.

So from one St. Louis blogger to another, well done.

Stay warm,
Jami
Bionic Beauty