Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Life goes on, but...

Renee's death continues to be at the forefront of my thoughts. Why her? Or...rather, just, Why?

It's frustrating to read the reports in the media, because they contradict each other and nobody can really glean the truth out of what is reported.

The most important thing I wanted to know was...did she know him? And it appears more and more certain that yes, she did know him. Her neighbors have said (maybe not in the media, but here amongst each other) that they had seen him at her apartment before. How well did she know him? Does that matter? Not to me, all that matters is that she knew him. That makes it a personal motive, not a random one.

Not justifiable at all. But a good time to remind ourselves to pay attention. Because I don't know about you, but there have been times when I unintentionally put myself in what could have been a precarious situation. When I look back on those situations, I realize I was just plain lucky. All it takes is one mistake with the wrong person, and awful things can happen.

All the travel I've done has sometimes meant coming and going in the wee hours of the morning or night. Loading luggage into a car in a deserted parking lot when it's dark makes one feel spooked. Wandering up and down aisles looking for my car at the airport is not smart; I should have made a note of the parking area. Scraping ice off my car for 30 minutes in the middle of the night just so I could open the darn car to start it up does not count as one of my favorite things to do. All those instances set me up should the wrong person come on the scene.

I worked in some big cities, known to have areas that one should not enter, even in broad daylight. One day I got lost driving through the south part of downtown Chicago. I realized I was in a bad situation, and didn't waste any time getting myself out of the area as quickly as I could. The same thing happened to me in downtown Buffalo, Hollywood, and New Jersey. I was actually on foot in Atlanta when I crossed into a section of town I shouldn't have been in. A kind shop-keeper moved me to the front of the line and got me out of the store and told me to go back 'that way'. He knew the dangers, I didn't.

Just last week I went to the drugstore around the corner from my home in Canada. As I got into my car, an older man came out of nowhere, and approached my window. My instinct should have been to lock the doors and drive off, but when he called "Excuse me", I sat with the door open and let him ask me for a 'toonie' (two dollar Canadian coin). I fished in my wallet and handed him the coin, and he thanked me and walked away. That's not what we're taught to do, is it? Women are told over and over to be on the alert for such things and to stay out of those types of situations. I didn't even think about it until later, and then I realized what I'd done.

Probably the most dangerous situation I got myself into was on the island of Grenada. I was leaving the island and was at the top of the hill waiting for the local bus to take me into town. I was the only person on the bus when we stopped to pick up a young local - a guy of about 20. Despite the fact that the bus was empty, the guy sat right beside me and started a conversation. Not wanting to be rude, I engaged in conversation with him. When he found out that my ferry wouldn't be leaving until the afternoon and I would have several hours in town, he suggested taking me on the tour of the north part of the island, a part I hadn't seen yet.

In town we took my luggage to the ferry office, and they stored the bags behind the counter. We took off walking out of town, assuming a taxi would be along to pick us up for the tour. Turned out it was lunch time and no taxis were around. We finally got picked up by a jeep driven by a friend he knew. It seemed like a pleasant little trip until we got dropped off at a boatyard, where Roger led me down a muddy path to the rocky beach.

We walked along the beach, strewn with conch shells, and Roger told me about his life. He was taking me to see his grandmother's home, he said, and I blindly followed along. There was nobody else around, and he easily could have attacked me and stolen my wallet, had that been his intention. At that point I realized I'd put myself into a potentially dangerous situation, but I was lucky - Roger was just a nice guy who wanted to make a little money by showing a tourist around his island. He did show me the family home, and the graveyard, before we hailed a taxi.

We safely made our way back to town, picked up my luggage, and walked to the ferry. I paid Roger $20 for his tour, and although I think he was expecting more, he glanced at the money and after a slight hesitation, said it was ok.

These are just a few instances that come to mind - episodes in my life when luck was with me, and the people in my vicinity were good people, nobody looking to harm me. I easily could have been in a situation such as Renee. Is there anyone out there who can claim they have never endangered themselves unintentionally? A time that you look back on and say "Wow, I was so lucky"?

I just wish Renee had been so lucky, and had found a "Roger" instead of a killer. I wish there had been men around to answer her calls and over-power the guy. I wish the guy had just been a thief and stolen her stuff and left her alone. I wish she hadn't opened the door. I wish she was alive to continue living her dream.

But she's gone. Mourned by those who knew her, and those who didn't. We used to drive by her place almost every evening on our way home from buying lottery tickets. I'd look up at her windows and note if the lights were on, or the windows were open. I'd think about her up there enjoying the view and the breeze, and the sunrises in the morning. She loved that apartment; she'd made it into something very cozy, and she planned to spend the rest of her life there. Actually, I guess she did spend the rest of her life there, only it was much too short. I'm so sorry Renee's trust in another human being was abused. But it could happen to any of us.


Life's a Beach! said...

Sue, I'd actually been thinking about the same thing. I'm a little more suspicious by nature, but there've been plenty of times when I've foolishly opened my door to strangers or taken chances in other ways. One time in Washington when Craig was out of town, I opened the door to a supposed employee of the natural gas company at 10:00 p.m. at night. He wanted to come in and check my hot water heater. I told him to go away and locked the door. This is freaky, but I'd actually dreamed my own murder in almost an identical scenario weeks before, yet I still opened that door. The dream had frightened me so much, I'd related it to friends. But the inclination was still to answer the door! The morning after the 10:00 p.m. caller, I phoned the gas company. They knew nothing about the man at my door. So we all need to be extremely careful not to be too trusting. That seems a terrible thing to say, but it's reality.

Jackie said...

Thank you again for a very thoughtful post.
I stopped parking in the long term parking lot at the airport when I travel for business many years ago after there had been a couple of incidents where women had been accosted and assaulted. If my company wants me to travel they can either pay for the short term parking garage or the cab ride to and from the airport. My office moved last week to an even more undesirable downtown location than where we were. In general downtown Portland is not bad but the last office location was on the bus mall and this one is a few blocks West where there seems to be lot of homeless people that hang out in the two parks close by. Last night Tara and Kelly sat in their car for about 10 minutes waiting for me to come down from my office to go to her birthday dinner. The first thing Tara said was “I don’t like you new office lotion. It’s scary.” I am still trying to figure out the parking situation because where I park now is about 4 ½ blocks away and I come and go early.
Renee’s story should be a wakeup call for us so thanks for giving us some more info.

IslaZina said...

I too have so far survived my precarious situations. Good post! RIP Renee.

Sue said...

Not really anything to add to this, other than wanting to thank you for sharing your stories and your comments.

Bennie said...

Sue - some of those situations you have described are certainly risky situations that you were lucky to have found the right person.

I think my worst place I've been in that situation was in Newark, NJ. I was so afraid of the neighborhood I was in. I called my mom every time I was sent there to thank her for not raising me in the inner city. Those poor kids that grow up there.

I'm glad you have found good people arond you in all these situations. And now you know to be more carful.