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.