burning house

Burning Down the House

In a week where compassion is the topic on everyone’s mind, I was somewhat reluctant to write these words. This hesitation only lasted for a moment. You see, I write from my heart, sometimes my head has no say, and when I hear or read a story that shouts to me OUT LOUD I just cannot be quiet. If I have a strong reaction to something I feel a sense of duty to myself to let the words loose on the page rather than to allow them an opportunity to smolder and singe my soul.

The interpretation of these words will be left to the individual reader. Some will say it is about closure. Some will say it is about revenge. Others might even venture to the outer realms and consider this about compassion or lack thereof. I may come under fire, seeming a hypocrite for recently posting about non-judgment although I was referring to less despicable acts.

I guess we shall see.

I remember the story of  seven year old Somer Thompson very well. She lived in Orange Park, Florida, about three hours from where I live so the story was all over the local news. Making it more personal for me was the fact that my own daughter had just turned seven years old.

In October of 2009 Somer was walking home from school with her twin brother, her sister, and a friend when she got into an argument with another child, walked off ahead of the other kids and wasn’t seen again until two days later when her body was found in a landfill in Georgia, 50 miles away.

On her walk home she passed a house. In that house was a 24 year old predator, a child molester and pornographer, who lived with his parents. This piece of garbage was found in Mississippi where he was being held for charges in child pornography.

In February 2012, after being tried on 14 counts of molestation and producing child pornography, he stood trial for multiple charges in Somer’s murder. He would escape the deserved death penalty by accepting a plea deal. In exchange for not appealing the sentence, he will spend the rest of his days in prison without the possibility of parole. I personally hope, without regret, he is being served a special brand of justice.

This week I came across a news story that caught, and held, my attention. The home where he lived with his parents that Somer was lured into and murdered was in foreclosure and was purchased by the Somer Thompson Foundation which was started by Somer’s mother, Diena. She donated the house to the Orange Park Fire Department for training exercises.

Last week, on February 12th, as part of a live training exercise, Dieana Thompson tossed a live flare into the house and watched the house where her daughter’s life ended burn to the ground.

“I get to burn their house down,” Thompson said. “I’m the big bad wolf this time knocking down your door, not the other way around. It’s really nice to know that I’m not ever going to have to drive in this neighborhood again and see this piece of trash.” – Diena Thompson

I know this act will never bring her daughter back but I do hope it brought this mother some level of closure. To destroy the place where evil reared its head and took up residence may have symbolically destroyed the evil itself to some extent. But was it enough?

I can only imagine that there can be no greater pain than to lose a loved one, most especially a child, to disgusting and inhuman violence.

Actually I can’t. I cannot make my mind go to that place because I know it is much more terrible than the worst nightmare I have ever had. I know that if I give myself even a nanosecond to think about it the first words that comes to my mind are an eye for an eye.

I consider myself a rational and compassionate person. I know right from wrong and the thought of taking another human life is an abhorrent one. I can say the words ‘I could just kill you’ in the zero-probability sense because it just isn’t something I would ever really do. I cannot fathom what happens in a person’s mind that allows them to commit homicide.

Until I think, in that nanosecond, that someone hurts one of my children. In that same nanosecond, I can see myself becoming a real life monster slayer. I see red and rage and death.

A lot can go through my head in a nanosecond, no?

The reality is I would think about it. I might even go so far as to plan it. But would I do it? I can’t help but wonder.

I think about Diena Thompson throwing that flare into that house. Did she wish silently that her daughter’s killer had been inside that house?

I know I would have.

I am not an overly political person. I don’t have a passionate view on the death penalty. I also lean more toward the spiritual rather than religious. I won’t debate translation of the Bible with anyone as I don’t believe, even after years of Baptist schooling,  I know enough to make an intelligent argument. No statement in this post is being made to hit a political or religious target.

Here is what I do believe:

Some people endure upbringings that bring them to the blurred edge of human vs. animal. Some people are born with missing pieces that make them unable to control urges that bring them to the same blurred edge. Sometimes people cross that line and do things that no one ever has the right to do to another human being, adult or child. I believe that the people who do commit these repulsive acts should be relieved of their place in society with the rest of us. One way or another. Period.

I can find no compassion in my heart for this man or anyone like him.

My compassion lies with the Thompson family, and I wish them peace.

And to Somer’s rapist and murderer, may you find fresh hell every day for the rest of your life.

43 thoughts on “Burning Down the House”

    1. I agree. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember the days when we could play freely outside or around the corner from dawn until dusk without fear of being snatched by a stranger, but I am. I miss that for my own kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I think I could/would kill or hurt someone who hurt my child. I’m very non-violent and try to understand where another human being came from to commit such a despicable act, but hurt my child/your child/any child. That crosses a line for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know the only time I get violent is when it comes to my kids. Well, mostly in my head because, thank God, I’ve never had to experience a circumstance where I’m tested. Knowing me, I would snap and that would be it. Do not mess with my kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Don’t feel bad about those feelings Sands, they’re very natural…and there’s nothing anti-Biblical about them. All edicts regarding pacifism in the Bible are of a political nature. While the bible does not advocate an eye for an eye, it does not discount it as a reasonable outcome. And anyway, it’s not about revenge, it’s all about saving the next victim in my view. Love you. Red

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I believe you’re right…it’s just a natural instinct to protect your children. These stories, though. There are just to frigging many of them and it makes me sick at my stomach. No parent should fear every day activities for their kids, always aware that the big, bad wolf is lurking.

      It’s just too much.

      Thanks for the love, RED! Right back at ya, big guy!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had goosebumps all the time reading your words. I think you brought some peace to that lost little girl by acknowledging her story & the pain of her family. It warms my heart that her mother found a way to ease her wounds, for they’ll never completely heal, by destroying that symbol of evil haunting her from the day a suspect was named responsible. Society should never have to fear the evils as such walking amongst them, they do not deserve a place in our world, they are just mistakes of our creator who belong back where they came from.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I hate the idea of these children being statistics and forgotten. They deserve so much more. I’m sure that burning down that house took a little of the sting out but even after all these years I can’t even begin to imagine the horror Somer’s mother lives with. You are right, we shouldn’t have to live in fear of these monsters but until someone gets serious and stops slapping their wrists and letting them loose again, we will always have to. And it’s a damn shame.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I joke about committing murder often (in fact, I just posted about that), but if someone hurt my kids or grandbabies in that way — I don’t think I’d have a problem ending their life. While I wouldn’t prefer to spend the rest of my days in prison, I think it would be a more than a fair trade off.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I would see burning the house as a cleansing ritual to get rid of evil and start over vs. being “the big, bad wolf” but that’s easy to say as my kid wasn’t the one in this scenario.

    I also have a very strong opinion of the death penalty, but again, no telling how I would feel if it was my kid.

    I am in awe of parents like Polly Klaas’ who are able to use their tragedy to try to reach out and help other parents who have lost their children in similarly horrible situations.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s why I said I can’t imagine because until it happens to you, you just don’t know how you would react. I think I would just go slap ass crazy, to be honest. My greatest fear, above all others, is losing one of my kids.

      I think there are many people who feel strongly about the death penalty but have the same feelings you do….what if it was my kid? Right? I know others that are all about compassion and forgiveness even in these scenarios.

      I also agree with you about the parents who have lost their children. They lose a person they love more than their own life and still go on and help others in the same situation. Ultimately, I would think that might be the greatest healing….turning something evil into something good. That is true compassion.


  6. You’ll get no argument from me, Sandy. While try to view every person through a compassionate lens, the sad fact is that some people are just irredeemable. Some people, like my former step-son, have something broken in their mind that no amount of love or compassion can fix. These people, as horrible as it sounds, should be removed from society one way or another.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree…some people just can’t be helped. I know many times there are circumstances; events from childhood that shape them into what they become (yes, I said what and not who). I believe things happen to a lot of people, we know some of them, and they find ways to cope and heal. If they can’t or won’t do that, then they don’t belong in society. On the other hand, I believe there is just plain old ugly evil and they don’t belong on this earth.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think most of us relate 100% to what you’ve expressed. There comes a point where compassion is unable to be received. And I would not offer the tiniest morsel of compassion to monsters like this. But even if I would, it would be a fruitless and wasted act on someone so evil. If it was my kids, I’m pretty certain I would cross that line. I too hope he’s meeting fresh hell every day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Gretchen. I agree with you that most will relate. I know some wouldn’t and that’s okay. To each their own. I guess we can all sit here and speculate how we would react but I guess we really don’t know. Please God, don’t let us ever have to find out.


  8. Right there with you. The sad thing is, it must’ve been disappointing to find that tossing that flare couldn’t possibly give her real satisfaction. She will never have that again. God rest Somer’s soul, and bless her family.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Every word that you wrote, every single one can stand up to any argument, scrutiny, or rationale that some people just do not deserve to be members of our society. They are broken and should be removed for disposal. I believe what you wrote with every fiber of my being.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This hits close to what I’m thinking of writing for Feb. 20. Compassion for those who have committed crimes (though I have a less horrible one in mind). I have the same visceral reaction you have to this. It doesn’t bring her daughter back, but I can’t imagine that it didn’t feel good to light that fire. But back to your point, where does compassion end. How horrible does a crime have to be? Theoretically, it shouldn’t end, right? But the truth is, it does. And the line is different with every person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, theoretically it shouldn’t end. I know there are people who can forgive this kind of act and I say good for them. I cannot find it in my heart to forgive this evil.

      I’ll be interested to read your post if you follow through on the theme. I agree with you to a point, just not this far.


  11. I think it’s brilliant that she got to burn his house down. I really hope it helped. I hope it brought her some level of closure, as you say.

    I don’t wish him ill though. Not personally, only because I don’t need to carry that, and I think there are those in the system who will be sufficiently incensed by his acts to mete out the vigilante justice which must be a consequence of his abhorrent behaviour.

    But though you don’t speak to faith or spirituality, I’m gonna take it there for a second, because imagine the white-hot rage in your mother-heart if someone hurt one of your kids. You love them but imperfectly, because you’re human. If the God I’ve been taught about loves perfectly, then I would be fucking TERRIFIED of seeing the incandescence of rage and power and justice which will be waiting for that sicko. And that satisfies my very human desire for vengeance against him and to see him peeled alive and rolled in salt – I just don’t need to go there.

    (though admittedly, there is a person I know, who, if he did the thing that is alleged, I would STRONGLY like to have that done to. In fact he apparently got ill the other day, and my instant and very uncharitable thought was “I hope it kills him”, so I’m not really that good at monitoring my feelings, and I’m completely with you on this)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sure there were a few precious moments of peace in the burning of the house. However, I would imagine they were quite short lived because nothing in this world can take away the pain she must feel every single day when she wakes up.

      You show your much more compassionate side but not wishing him ill. I do and I make no apologies. Do I dwell on it? No. Of course not. I’m sure it’s a given if the stories we hear about what happens to people who harm children in prison.

      I’m not sure what has happened there in that last paragraph but it doesn’t sound good. At all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I shall be happy to know that the guy who did this to that poor child will suffer the consequences of his actions at the hands of fellow inmates. Compassion is fine, and it frees me from being hooked in. You seem able to let it go, too. Which is good, because fostering anger towards unknown others is just too much of a burden.

        That poor mother will never get full closure. I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s why we react so strongly and call it a tragedy and an outrage, and why we get so amped up when someone kills a child. It goes against everything we stand for as humans, and we need to band together to protect our little ones.

        It’s not good, that last para. It gnaws at me, sometimes. Suffice it to say, in my family, my troubles sometimes feel like the least of everyone’s.


  12. My friend was raped and murderd two years after we graduated. You better believe that I celebrated with champagne the day her killer got the needle, even if it was sadly not for her murder. I agree there is a special place in hell for people like this kind of trash, and I know without a doubt, that if someone hurt my child, I would want him dead. And maybe even at my hand. I always say, you can mess with me, but if you hurt my children, you will have a tiger by her tail.

    The writing here shouldn’t go unnoticed. Well done, sandy. As always.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, Mandi! I am so, so sorry. You really can see this story from a different angle then. I say the same thing….mess with me all day long but not my children. Never, ever my children.

      Thank you so much, Mandi, for the kind words on my writing. Coming from you that is a massive compliment which I will gratefully accept. XX


  13. Wow….I have goose bumps and an upset stomach. What a powerful, gut-punching read about a horror that I just couldn’t even imagine.

    “I know this act will never bring her daughter back but I do hope it brought this mother some level of closure. To destroy the place where evil reared its head and took up residence may have symbolically destroyed the evil itself to some extent. But was it enough?”
    What a great capture

    Reading this reminded me of when Jenny (from Forrest Gump) threw rocks at the home where her father abused her. It also reminds me of the song Kerry Underwood sings- Blown Away. “There’s not enough rain in Oklahoma to wash the sins out of that house. There’s not enough wind in Oklahoma to rip the nails out of the past.”

    While burning down that house will never bring her sweet girl back, at least the walls are gone and she won’t ever have to see the physical reminder of her pain.

    You are such a beautiful writer, Sandy. Thank you for this awesome piece today. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I feel as you do. Quite simply some people don’t belong in polite society with the rest of us. I have to say how grateful I am every day that my daughter made into adulthood unscathed. It’s a crazy world out there. My heart goes out to any parent who loses a child especially under such horrific circumstances. Pedophilia is not something that can be rehabilitated… that doesn’t leave many other options. 😦


  15. such a shudder-worthy subject, but you handled it masterfully, as usual. I’m conflicted about the death penalty, but if it was my kid’s murderer? I probably wouldn’t be anymore, you know? Scary, ugly stuff.

    I don’t talk about it ever, but a good friend from my days working at Improv was murdered in 2006. It still stops me in my tracks when I realize he’s no longer breathing, and I’ll never hear his infectious laugh again. His murderer is mentally ill. Cut him to pieces and ate every bit of my friend, Richard. (tough to even write his name). The murderer, last I heard, was still awaiting trial because it couldn’t be determined if he was insane or not. He’s probably still sitting there. I don’t know if a person that ill can be helped. Such a tragic, horrific situation. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This was beautifully written. I am just so grateful that as of yet I do not have the life experience to show me “what if…” Even small infractions against the people I love send me over the edge. I remember reading the story of football player Warrick Dunn, whose mother was killed, and he visited the murderer in prison and forgave him years later. Dunn said he didn’t do it for the criminal’s sake, he did it for his own. He was a big strong man. He could have done serious damage to that guy, and held on to a lot of anger, but he knew that it could have ruined his own Life to hold on to so much bitterness. His mother used to say “you can be bitter or you can be better.” I have those words tattooed on my arms. I would like to think that burning down that house allowed this poor mother to bury some of her pain without having to also deal with the inevitable ramifications that come from getting revenge. Thanks for bringing this story to light.


  17. I am with you all the way on this one Sandy. It’s something I can’t comprehend happening to anyone but when children are the victims of sexual assault and / or murder, I become so enraged. My complaint mostly comes from the news stories where these animals have already been arrested for the same crimes and yet get set free to do it again or worse. When is that ever going to stop?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I vividly remember seeing Somer’s mom on Good Morning America saying “He threw my baby away like garbage.” My heart was broken for her. I haven’t heard anything about the case since, and I have to say this news gives me a certain satisfaction. Diena handled it in such an appropriate way, and did some good in the process by giving the fire company a place to practice. Nothing will ever bring Somer back, but hopefully this act closed the hole in her heart just a little bit.


  19. I do not think that you lack compassion for wondering whether you would “go there” if somebody were to hurt your kids. Thinking – even for a nanosecond – about something happening to my little boy… I don’t know what I would do to the person who hurt him. I do think some people are broken beyond repair and that they do not need to be in society at all. Sigh. I’m glad Somer’s mom got to burn the house down. I’m sure she did wish that he were inside. I would have.


Now for the best part...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s