Several days ago I wrote about how my children witnessed the aftermath of a shooting in our neighborhood. If you want to read about it, you can click here. My kids are processing their feelings about it in different ways. My 17-year-old daughter had horrible nightmares a few nights ago. She dreamt about stepping over bodies after a massacre at a local shopping center, and she finally had some tears. Later I asked my 12-year-old son how he was doing with it, and all I could get out of him was a flat, emotionless “Fine.”. Pushing him a little, I said “Okay, well I wanted to check in on how you are doing, because your sister had nightmares last night, and I know how sometimes it can be hard to stop thinking about these things later.” He then got a little agitated with me and said “MOM, PLEASE don’t talk about it! I was doing fine until you brought it up! I wasn’t even thinking about it! I DON’T WANT TO THINK ABOUT IT!”. I then told him that the victim had been identified, and he calmed down and became quiet and inquisitive, and he wanted to know more about the man he saw dying in the street. It’s important for them to talk about it, and it’s important for them to have a face and a name for the victim so they can properly process this scary, sad thing they witnessed.
The police have announced that they believe the victim, Yancy Noll, was murdered over a traffic altercation. Road rage is the suspected motive, and they have not caught the murderer, yet. There are witnesses and a video clip from a nearby surveillance camera of the killer’s silver BMW Z4 convertible speeding away from the scene. Mr. Noll was shot 3 times, in the chest, neck and head. Executed. For what? Cutting someone off in traffic?
I told my son a bit about the victim from what I had seen on the internet and TV news segments. Mr. Noll was 43, and was a wine steward at the QFC grocery store in the Broadway Market in Seattle. He was a lover of nature, and his Facebook page shows many pictures of him climbing and hiking in the mountains, playing his guitar and doing other fun things. He seems to have had a lot of friends, and they are stunned. They cannot believe that such a terrible fate could befall their friend whom they describe as “full of life”, “always happy” and “one of the good guys”.
We drove by the place where my children saw the aftermath of the murder, a corner we pass often. There is an impromptu shrine there now, with flowers, a cross, and photos of the victim piling up. We lingered a moment and pondered the unthinkable. A man was killed here last week for no understandable reason. A man we didn’t know, but who feels familiar to us, like we could’ve known him. Perhaps our paths DID cross at one time or another before that night my children saw him in his last moments on earth. Returning again to this quiet, ordinary, familiar street corner made it all even harder to comprehend.
My son asked me why it wasn’t a bigger news story, he couldn’t believe it hadn’t even made it to the front page of the newspaper (It has garnered quite a bit more attention in the days since he asked me this…). He wanted to understand why and how such a thing could happen. I don’t know. I tried to come up with some kind of reasonable explanation, but I didn’t have one. I wanted to say something to him to help him make sense of it all. I wanted to tell him the police would catch the murderer and justice would be served. But instead I stammered and struggled with how to frame it for him. My mind wandered back through other murders this year in Seattle, 22 of them to be exact, and the unsatisfying resolution that comes when the perpetrators of these crimes are apprehended and the questions and grief still linger.
These are the things that are hard to explain to children. There is no way to truly understand them ourselves as parents, so how can we help them? As human beings we can make up endless stories about God, or reincarnation, or heaven, or about it all being absurd, but ultimately so much is unknowable and mysterious to us and we can only try to find our OWN meaning in the midst of it.
The meaning I choose again and again and what I attempted to convey to my children as we continued to discuss this murder, is that these horrible situations are opportunities to come together as human beings and to renew our committment to love and care for one another. Mr. Noll’s senseless death is yet another reminder of the preciousness of life. It is a reminder to be grateful for our loved ones and for what we share right now. I believe it is useless to dwell on evil and better to use it as a springboard to renew our committment to become conscious, loving human beings. That’s the best I’ve got for them right now.
So with this in mind, I hope that the family and friends of our brother Yancy Noll know that his life and death did not go unnoticed by those of us in his greater community. His death weighs heavily on our hearts and we grieve with them. We hope and pray that the killer will be apprehended and that our justice system will keep him from hurting anyone else. But we know that ultimately we must find it within ourselves to let his life be an inspiration rather than allow his death to lead us down a path of despair.