There was a double homicide in my small hometown recently. On a sunny, summer Saturday morning two senior women, a mother and daughter, were stabbed to death in their home by the daughter’s boyfriend’s son.
My sister and I started scouring through Facebook pages and Instagram accounts looking for more information, clues, scandals. I didn’t know anyone involved, but being a small town, I have mutual friends with them all. So I feel connected. And to top it off, this happened in the neighborhood I grew up in, two streets over from my favorite house we lived in.
There were numerous threads on our twice weekly newspaper’s Facebook page with the latest updates. Most of the comments were shock and condolences. Then came the requests to take down the street view picture of the house and the address.
Guess what? You live on Murder Street now. You live near The Murder House. Taking down the picture and address isn’t going to change that, nor will it stop people from driving by. It’s a small town. Even if it wasn’t, if someone wants to see it, they’ll find it.
I am one of those people.
I am fascinated by places where unspeakable things happened. And before you tell me how sick in the head I am, ask yourself if you’ve ever wanted to visit a concentration camp or the site of a civil war battle, Pearl Harbor or Dealey Plaza. Because it’s all the same thing.
Visiting sites like these is the closest you can get to evil and live. It’s paying your respects. It’s wrapping your brain around how someone can commit whatever heinous crime you’re bearing witness to the aftermath of. It’s trying to understand human nature and our own mortality.
And you’re a part of it now. You live on Murder Street now. All you can do is hope the looky-loos are respectful.
Don’t invade anyone’s privacy. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t sit in an idling car in front of someone’s house. Don’t loiter on someone’s sidewalk. My advice is to park down the street and take a walk through the neighborhood. Pause by the house, don’t linger. Don’t disrupt the lives of anyone on that street. Be respectful.
The people who live on Wonderland Avenue know they live on the street where four people were bludgeoned to death in the early 80s. The people who live near the La Bianca house know what the Manson family members did there 50 years ago. Anyone who drives past the Menendez brother’s house knows what they did to their parents there. You now join their ranks.
I stood outside the house where Jodi Arias murdered Travis Alexander. My boyfriend put the address in the GPS. We parked near a park in the neighborhood and took that leisurely stroll. He took my picture as we paused in front of the house.
That tragedy happened right behind those windows above the garage. Right. There. It’s not just a story on TV or in a book. It’s real and it happened right where I’m standing.
The same gravity hit me when I stood at the ruins of Ground Zero in New York six months after 9/11, and the Oklahoma City bombing memorial.
Why am I smiling in that picture? Because I was nervous as hell. I always expect the owner to come running out with a shotgun threatening me to get off their lawn. I don’t want to appear disrespectful or BE disrespectful.
These sites are all now historical. All of them. They’re all now a part of understanding culture, society and behavior. If you live on or near something like this, you’re now part of it, too.
I won’t ever be able to drive through my old neighborhood without thinking of it or slowing down as I pass that house. It’s changed me and I don’t even live there anymore. It’s made my hometown feel even smaller, yet closer, united and aware. It shouldn’t take a tragedy for that to happen but…
Here we are. Changed in ways we never expected. Redefined by events beyond our control. Part of history. Attempting to make sense of it all. Honoring lives. Contemplating our own. Adjusting to the view this new twist of the kaleidoscope has presented us.
My hunt for understanding continues. The next neighborhood with a Murder Street marked on my map. My promise to be respectful resolute.