I haven't weighed in on the Russell Williams horror. I find it difficult. But a comment on my previous blog has me thinking.
When his arrest happened, I heard from an old friend of mine. We went to school together, going our separate ways after graduation. We'd been primary school friends, our sisters had been friends, our mothers even.
I bumped into Jeff in a parking lot a few years back, and we caught up. His mom was ill, but they read my column together and he told me she loved it. We continued to touch base every year or so, mostly to compare life notes, talk about old friends, lament the loss of parents.
The note I got from Jeff when Williams was arrested was totally different. He'd been Williams' university roommate. They'd been each others' best man at their weddings. They'd spent vacations together. Jeff was freaked out. I was even more freaked out.
The Globe and Mail has a long interview from April about Williams, and I wasn't surprised to see Jeff as a major source. He knew they'd be talking to him; turns out police talked to everyone.
Jeff is a smart guy. Very smart. Kind. Like many of us, he's lived through some stuff. He didn't know. He didn't know this man beside him was a monster. His press interviews reveal the candid man I know.
Would you have known? I doubt it. I always think women sense things differently than men do, but you still don't let your mind wander far enough to think that the weirdo you dated once (or turned down immediately) is anything but, well, weird. It's a reach for a normal person's brain to head straight to 'killer', let alone 'dangerous'. But that is the difference, as we have so painfully been made aware. Two glorious women snuffed out, an entire country gasping. And too many moments where that bastard Paul Bernardo has been brought back into the equation - a devastating wound that will never heal.
Ann Rule, who writes girl- in- a- dumpster true crime novels, wrote about Ted Bundy. It was called The Stranger Beside Me, as it turned out she'd worked next to him at some point. She never knew. I'm sure Jeff is reeling from the Stranger Beside Him, and I'm sure Williams' wife probably is too.
When Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffey were stolen by Bernardo, the cops had up billboards telling us what kind of car to look out for. Christopher was a baby; I looked for that car everywhere as we drove around. Everywhere. For years I looked, even though they'd long ago decided they'd gotten the car wrong. I wasn't looking for a car; I was looking for a way to bring those girls back. Makes no sense, but I soon realized the true meaning of the word haunted.
Around the same time, Nina de Villiers, a Burlington teenager, was kidnapped while jogging. While it was thought she was another Bernardo victim - the community was reeling - she instead was murdered by a violent offender out on parole. I went to a search they had organized, and we were told to look for an orange t-shirt with a tree on it. The last thing Nina had been seen wearing. I still look for that t-shirt. I am haunted by that t-shirt. That car. That desperate feeling that I could do nothing, the desperate wish that these men had been stopped before these wonderful girls had been so unfathomably destroyed.
Women birth them; women marry them. I don't know what's at the heart of these relationships. I like to think I do, but I don't. I do know my friend's life has been slammed hard, and when we catch up next over coffee I'm sure there will be a huge cross section of emotion. How could there not be?
There has been a lot of fallout regarding the coverage of Williams' trial. Many are saying news organizations are sensationalizing prurient details only to sell papers. I don't believe that. We need to know there is this heart of darkness. We need to be aware of the evil that walks amongst us. The fact you can't fathom such things is good. It shouldn't be understandable.
But it should be recognizable. For all those destroyed by these evil bastards, it needs to be recognizable.