Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Other Victims

Bud Welch did something extraordinary.
Bud's daughter was killed in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  Then, a couple of years later, he saw a picture of Tim McVeigh's father, Bill, and realized that they were both parents.  So Bud traveled across the country, some 2,000 miles, from Oklahoma City to near Buffalo,  New York, to meet with the father of the man whose son killed his daughter.  He met with Tim McVeigh's sister, Jennifer, too.
They sat around a kitchen table, the three of them.  Stephanie Salter tells what happened next.
``When I got ready to leave, Jennifer hugged me and then she just took to sobbing,'' Welch said by phone from Oklahoma City. ``I put my hands on her cheeks and held her face and said, `Honey, the three of us are in this together for the rest of our lives. We can make the most of it if we choose. I don't want your brother to die, and I'll do what I can to help.'''
This isn't another of my posts about forgiveness or a to-some-surprising voice against the death penalty and for mercy, though I could quote Bud Welch for days on those subjects (and if you get a chance to hear him speak, you should jump at it).  Really, it's not.  This isn't a post about Bud Welch at all.
This is a post about Bill McVeigh.  And about Jennifer.  It's a post about the unrecognized victims of criminal acts.  It's a post about love and loss.  See, Bill McVeigh lost his son Tim and Jennifer lost her brother Tim just as surely as Bud Welch lost his daughter Julie.  They were all victims of what happened that day.
Greg Toppo, writing in today's USA Today, puts it simply.
Americans are mourning along with victims' families in the wake of the Aurora movie theater shootings. But what should our feelings be toward the family of James Holmes, the shooting suspect?
Experts who study shooting rampages and killing sprees say we should mourn for them too.
"We have lots of sympathy for the families of the victims, as we should," said Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, "but we generally don't have much sympathy at all for the family of the perpetrators — whether their loved one is dead or alive."
I've known parents who rejected their children because of what they did.  And I've known parents who cry every day over the loss of their child to the state.  And sure, maybe the kid was responsible for what he did.  And maybe Mom and Dad weren't ideal parents.  But they love their children.  Even wen they reject, they feel the pain and the loss.
The Oklahoma City memorial doesn't recognize Bill or Jennifer.  They'll do something in Aurora, Colorado, too.  And if James Holmes turns out as alleged to be the one who did those things (and if not he, someone else), there won't be a mention of the family that loves him, that mourns for what he did, and for their own loss, whatever punishment is inflicted on him.
I understand why the families of the killers are left out of the memorials.
Victims also, they're worth a tear sometime, too.
Even the bad parents love their kids and mourn their loss.
One extra tear now and again from the rest of us, one more moment of silence, one spare thought.
Really, it shouldn't be too much to ask.

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