On Monday night, coyotes were the top story in my community. The local news affiliate reported one of the marauding animals killed someone’s small terrier. The following evening, I was excited when I saw one of the wild beasts while riding my bike. The day afterward, a despairing man who lives an only mile away from me perpetrated the most prolific slaughter in the history of Orange County. What a difference a day makes in your perspective.
Seal Beach is a few miles down the road from where I live in Huntington Beach. It is an idyllic, tranquil seaside hamlet just north of urban Long Beach. My wife and I have often frequented their array of restaurants, bars and trendy shops on Main Street; and have taken relaxing walks on their pier. It is a town where people go to unwind, forget their stress and soak in the California sun. All that changed when a 41-year old man named Scott Dekraai walked into The Salon Meritage and murdered eight defenseless people.
Until yesterday, the alleged killer lived on a street I have driven past many times during my eleven years in the neighborhood. By his next door neighbor’s account, he was an “easy going” man, who played ball with his son, and was often helpful to the people who lived on Melody Lane. Like his neighbors, the families and friends of the victims and our local media, people need to understand what caused a middle aged father to come apart at the seams; and succumb to unbridled evil.
Early accounts have surfaced that Dekraai suffered a maritime accident in 2007 that left him permanently mutilated and disabled. Since then, the once physically active father experienced a rapid bodily decline, a contentious divorce and subsequent custody battle. The Orange County Register reported that he has post-traumatic stress disorder and possibly bouts of bipolar disorder. This might tend to engender my sympathy; but then I think about the poor souls who now suffer from the permanent depravation of life.
Recently, I heard Pastor Jack Graham say something to the effect that “we are all just one sin away from disaster.” Though I have been blessed with much in life, I am acutely aware that the situation could change. With a few misfortunes, I could lose the things I hold dear. I would like to think like most ordinary folks, I could never do anything so cowardly and despicable. I sit comfortably in my office pronouncing judgment, with the sun shining and the birds singing outside my window. I cling to the illusion that I have control of my fragile world; and I can accept the challenges that fate throws my way.
It is ironic that I heard about this tragedy while returning home from attending a funeral. Yesterday, I joined a family in celebrating the life of a fellow man that had a long and productive journey. Four days ago, Huntington Beach was a town that thought scrounging coyotes were a crisis. Today, we are a community suffering the shock that one of our own destroyed the sleepy daydream of security enjoyed by our neighboring community. A place where until yesterday, people lived, worked and played in safety and prosperity. There but for the grace of god...