Monday, January 09, 2006

Picking Up the Pieces

by F.T. Rea

Sunday morning I woke up still exhausted. Six whole days and nights of jolting aftershocks, which seemed to be shaking to pieces what matters most, wore this grizzled scribbler out. With the arrests in Philadelphia of Ray Joseph Dandridge and Ricky Gray an anxious Richmond, Virginia now prays for calm.

At this writing it appears the apprehended pair of murder suspects, both 28, may have killed the innocent Harvey family -- Bryan, 49; Kathy 39; Stella 9; Ruby 4 -- as part of a wider crime spree. It’s not at all clear how the true murderers selected their victims. Dandridge and Gray remain in Pennsylvania, for now, held in connection with killing seven people in Richmond's Southside.

So, we’ll wait to learn more, as we try to get back to something akin to normalcy. Hopefully, these arrests will stick and reduce the flow of ghoulish gossip-mongering that's been rampant. At the same time let's have the unvarnished truth from our police department and news agencies, ASAP. Let’s hear the worst of it, and get it over with.

Since we learned of the Jan. 1 Harvey murders we have been breathing shallowly, caught in the grip of fear. Guessed-at reasons for the Harveys to have been selected for slaughter dominated too many conversations, as if that's what mattered most. Now it appears the dark speculations about how the crime had to have been personal, and thus had to have been committed by psychotic fiends who knew them, was mostly a matter of too many of us playing “profiler,” trying to make sense out of the senseless.

Those who knew Byran best for his much-admired music figured it had to be about that. His song lyrics were mined for clues; old events and connections were revisited. Others closer to Kathy feared it had to do with her life as a prominent Carytown merchant. The couple's Woodland Heights neighbors surely suspected the bloodletting had to do with the neighborhood.

Thus, everyone saw the crime scene itself through their own prism. Which means, of course, the terrified children at Stella’s and Ruby’s schools must have thought it was about their little world.

Now, we’re told the Harveys may indeed have been picked at random. OK. Is that worse that our squirming-toad-imaginations conjured up, or not? Does it matter?

Of course, for those looking for sensationalism, the lyrics to Bryan Harvey’s songs will now conveniently be converted from clues into premonitions. So, don’t expect that aspect of this story to ever stop completely.

It won’t surprise me if we eventually learn the Harveys weren’t picked totally at random, either, or that there's more to come out. Perhaps these murders were something like the Clutter family's killings in Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” in that the crime started out as a robbery of people thought to be rich, but that easy motive was an excuse to do more. Or not. Maybe we’ll never know why.

After all, should we ever believe anything the sub-human culprits tell us? Hell, they may be so wicked they don’t really know why they did it, except it was a thrill.

In the crucible of this shared ordeal for the community grieving the painful loss of the Harveys a truth more important than base motives is being forged: We know much, much better than before that we absolutely cherish our ordinary lives, just as they are -- our children, our friends, our history together and our community.

There were 1,399 of us at the Byrd Theatre yesterday afternoon for the memorial ceremony. Let me tell you, being in that room was a powerful experience. We were told by speakers to “remember the Harveys well,” by remembering them as who they were -- generous, talented people who gladly took the risks to make us dance and laugh.

Right now we still feel fragile.

This terrible experience in the process of transforming us. But into what? Let's hope we're being changed into a community of individuals a little quicker to take risks to follow their hearts and laugh sincerely.

-- 30 --

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