DIE DIE DIE
One of my first Red Cross runs involved arson, theft, and death. Five children were killed by a coward who stole a woman's purse in the emergency room of a local hospital and took a cab to her house to rob it. He loaded up the cab with household goods like radios, tv's, and other items. One of the six kids asleep upstairs heard him, and went downstairs to check it out. He said he was a friend of their Mom's, who had asked him to go check on the kids while she was in the ER. The child asked for a drink of water, and then went back upstairs. That's when he freaked out, realizing the child could identify him... so he set three fires to cover up his tracks. One child survived by jumping out the 2nd story window. They couldn't get downstairs- he had set fires all around the stairs, making them impassable.
I first went to the scene of the fire, to inspect the damage. I was so scared. I was afraid I would see little charred outlines where the kids had died. Or maybe those Hollywood chalk outlines of their tiny bodies. What if it smelled like burnt bodies? What did burnt bodies smell like anyway? Worse than hair melted by an over-heated hair dryer? How would I handle being around the families? So many questions. So many fears.
There were no charred remains; no chalk outlines; no dead body smell. The bodies had already been taken to the morgue, and the families were there, hoping to view them. The morgue is where I met the families. One was a single mother, whose only child was killed in the fire. The surviving child was there too, telling his story in a flat, even, disbelieving tone. I remember the grandfather, yelling at this poor boy, asking him why he was the only one to survive; why didn't he try harder to get the other kids out. I wonder if the child, Rod, now a man, remembers that moment with the same horror I do. The man who committed the crime, William Garner, was under arrest before I even got home.
It was a Sunday morning. I know this, because I remember stopping at a local church just before the second service started. I asked the greeter for a prayer card. I had held it together in front of the family- something I'm very proud of. But by the time I got to that church, I had been crying for some time. I smelled like smoke, and had tear-stained cheeks when I entered that church, so it was pretty obvious something bad had happened. The greeter, instead of giving me a card, asked me what happened. I told him, briefly, that I was asking for prayers for the families of the 5 children killed in an arson fire that morning. He was horrified, and struck with the same silence most would be after hearing such a tale. With a slightly less-heavy heart, I went home.
William Garner was eventually convicted, and sentenced to death. It was the first time in my life I actually pumped my fists and yelled "YESSSSSSSS" when I heard the news.
In October 2007, I got the news that his sentence had been overturned, because his new lawyer convinced an appeals court that he was too stupid to understand his Miranda Rights as they were read to him.
Fortunately, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals OVERTURNED THAT DECISION today, and upheld his death penalty sentence.
William Garner, I hope you die soon and rot in HELL, you bastard!
Originally published March 3, 2009... Updated, July 13, 2010, at 10AM, EST... at which time William Garner's execution will begin. Relief. Relief is what I feel right now; I cannot even imagine how the family of those five children feel.