One day a young man bought a lot of plants and asked for help getting them to his car a short distance away. My younger sister accompanied him. As she placed the plants in his car he pushed her into the back seat and slammed the door shut.
She was around 11 years old at the time and the veteran of many sibling scraps. As the door closed she kicked it open and jumped out of the car. He got in the car and took off.
My mother called out for help, and noted the license plate number. Someone called the police. And that was that.
The attack, so soon after the murder of Peggy Reber, left a lasting impression on my young life. There was no follow up, no media outrage, no counseling, just a helpless sense of, oh well. The police said the license plate number didn't match the vehicle description. Our family just didn't discuss it.
When the Nickel Mine School was bulldozed I felt a sort of rightness. That's how it should be. You don't forget about it by any means. But you don't let ugly reminders linger either. All you can do is keep creating the best life possible for as many people as possible, and protect each other from harm.
A few years ago I talked with my sister about our family's silence regarding the kidnapping attempt. She then told me she thought the young man who did it may have been Freeman May. But he was only a couple grades ahead of us in school, she added, so he wouldn't have been able to drive.
But later I remembered that he'd been held back in school. And even if he hadn't been old enough to legally drive he may have driven anyway. Also, his home near Colebrook was a straight shot down Route 341 to Middletown.
I wondered why she hadn't mentioned this sooner. Or perhaps she had, and nobody had paid attention?
He and his son are Pennsylvania's first father and son on death row.
If I could have one wish granted it would be this: to free ourselves from the burden of imprisoning people.
Do I mean get rid of prisons, you say? Is that what you said?
Yes, because prisons solve nothing and correct nothing. If anything they exacerbate the disease of crime and add to human misery -- not just for the people inside, but for their friends and family.
People often say they don't want their tax dollars supporting scum in prison. But people are not scum. Let law enforcement people do their work. Then let family, in the context of their community, rooted in love, do the hard work of healing. This includes clergy, teachers, elders, and perhaps a system of parole supervision, one-on-one if warranted, including electronic monitoring.
People often say the person who is imprisoned for murder had years of life that the person who was killed did not have.
Life in prison is not life at all. It is torture. I don't know anyone whose character is improved by torture, and I would rather have my tax dollars spent more productively, in ways that honor the untimely loss of life, instead of adding to it. There are better ways of treating people, ways that are healthier for everyone. Putting people to death, or imprisoning them for years or decades, makes our behavior little better than theirs. We are free to create something better and healthier.