Ill winds mark it's fearsome flight, 
and autumn branches creak with fright. 
The landscape turns to ashen crumbs, 
when something wicked this way comes...

I wanted to share a funny story today.  I wanted to share one yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.   But I can’t.

It’s so hard to put into words what is happening to the hearts of all who have made their homes here in the happiest of valleys.  It’s hard, hard, hard, but I’ve got to give it a shot.   I’ve got to talk about it one more time, and then maybe I can find a place to store it in my heart and my mind.  I don’t intend to hide it, but I want to try to find a place where it won’t stop me from functioning.

Most of us here are walking around in a shell-shocked daze.  We are numb.  We are so horrified that we can’t even clear our minds enough to grasp the magnitude of what has happened. 

But we know it’s bad.

We live in a small town.  We have seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one large high school.  There are five grocery stores, (not including the Wal-Mart superstores) two community pools, one library, a small mall and a number of stores downtown.  We also are the home of one large university with award-winning academic programs; numerous professors who are highly regarded in their fields; a new law school; and a well-known football program.

We know each other.

We teach the children of most people who work at the university, along with the kids in our own neighborhoods.  All of our children, from main street to alley, know each other.  They all play sports together, attend banquets together, go to parties, playoffs, dances and so many other things that I can’t even begin to name them.

We know each other.

And so we are all trying to come to terms with what our hearts are feeling.  We are mourning the loss of innocence and the endless number of lives that were destroyed by the actions of one terrible person.   We are also mourning the lives of those that will be destroyed by the lack of action of many people.

But the one thing that I think about each night before I fall asleep is this.

I see the face of a young boy.   He is in the shower, being tortured by a man he trusts– and he sees the face of another, the face of someone who can save him!    And then just when he thinks he’s saved, that person turns his back, and walks away.

And he is left alone. 

That, my friend, is the only thing I think about at the end of each day.  And it makes me sick.


Sue said...

I think you said it all perfectly when you said, "just when he thinks he's saved, that person turns his back, and walks away." This, to me, is the saddest of it all. Each and every single one of us have an obligation, a responsibility to look out for our children, all children! How, please make me understand, HOW when that child thinks he is saved, do you turn and walk away? I just don't understand. That is the greatest tragedy of this all!!

Take care my friend, Sue

Sheila said...

I saw this quote today and I think it sums up how many feel about this horrible thing:
In any situation, the best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.--Theodore Roosevelt
I will NEVER be able to understand why so many KNEW what was happening and did not pick up the phone to call the police.
Take care of yourself and your neighbors...

Anonymous said...

I understand your need for anonymity in light of your public profession (I too am in this profession and guard myself heavily on the Internet). You had me believing for a while that you really were in Oregon and your description of your small college town did sound remarkably like one we have in Oregon. For a while I was trying to figure out which side of town you lived on because your description was so close. I also understand that you are now using Oregon tongue-in-cheek as you are obviously not from Oregon when you describe events that are happening in Pennsylvania. But I ask you, as an Oregonian, please leave Oregon out of this mess. It is not our mess.

Vodka Mom said...

my friend from Oregon. I hear you. Loud and clear.

Be thankful.

However, I hope that the mistakes of some, will be outweighed by the thousands who will rally to support and help those in need.

Sara J. Henry said...

My thoughts exactly. I will never be able to understand why someone would not call 911 when seeing a child abused - helping save that child, and the children that person hasn't yet abused.

Tracey said...

Amen. So well articulated, as usual - this is exactly why it's not only the one monster who's to blame.

Anonymous said...

I still have no words for how I feel about the people who knew and did not act. I still can not and will not ever understand how that can happen. And my heart still breaks for those children.

You found the words I couldn't find.

Sherri said...

I just have to say this.

@Anon in Oregon. Is that ALL you had to say? To not mention Oregon?

Really? That's all? After everything VM wrote. THAT was what you chose to say when you could speak?

THAT behavior is how these situations can happen.

It wasn't Oregon's problem I guess.

Until it is.

This situation is tragic. My heart is breaking.

Learn from this.Everyone. Please.

Brian Miller said...

ugh. yeah..i really dont know what to say...to turn your back on that it disgusts me as much as the act...

Far Side of Fifty said...

I read the grand jurys transcript this morning. My heart breaks for the young boys whose innocence was taken away by one horrible man..AND by more men who knew what was happening..how could they not say anything? How could they be silent? Even the Janitor was silent because he thought he might lose his job.
So many many wrongs..how will it ever be right again??

I am sorry..sorry for the boys, sorry for their families and sorry for their teachers and their community.
Sending you a hug:)

Cheryl D. said...

Well said! So tragic!

Kristi said...

This has been on my mind all week as well. I couldn't understand why witnessing that act and doing nothing to stop it from continuing wasn't being acknowledged. It is so sad. Thank you for putting into words what I've been feeling.

G. B. Miller said...

Every time I read new details about this it makes me sick. Now they're revisiting the disappearance and presumed murder of a district attorney who was investigating the main culprit and choose not to bring charges up the first time to see if his disappearance is in any way connected.

We had our own long term sex abuse scandal out here in Connecticut that involved a large institution (hospital) and I pray that this one doesn't turn out to be as horrific as that one did.

Mel said...

I cannot understand the students rioting. Why are they taking the side of the coach and not the innocent kids who he enabled to be molested? It sickens me to think that these students really can't understand that being a winning coach is not enough; being a decent human being, a law abiding citizen, is more!

Unknown said...

Justice will prevail...

Terrifying, Deb, when our trust is broken.

Mrs. E said...

I totally understand the sadness. I know this isn't just "Oregon's" problem. It is everyone's problem. It goes on every day, in every state in the Union. "Oregon" just happens to make the news. And it is sick--and it makes me sick. Prayers for your community. Prayers for children everywhere!

Cora said...

I'm with Mel. I felt physically ill when I saw the students rioting for their coach. I thought that was nothing more than an additional assault on the poor children involved in this horror story.

noexcuses said...

I'm with Mrs. E! It is happening in small towns, as well as, large cities, all over the nation. So many people don't want to get invovled for fear of retribution, or losing the only job they have. I am lucky to have a job at my age, and I work with children, and I've always got one eye on my work, and one eye on the kids. I would step up, even if it meant losing my job because it's got to be stopped.

Incredible post, girl!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you VM for verbalizing our thoughts and allowing these responses for us to unburden our reactions to our shaken trust in some other people. I personally feel - No matter what else, the safety and security of a child is more important than any material possession, reputation or salary of an adult! Misplaced loyalties have created an ugly cascade of events to occur - and the response of those providing support for the wrong cause is a learned behavior and way of thinking that we all have a responsibility to identify and address in our own families and social circles. We truly need to be each other's keepers.

MaryBeth said...

Unfortunately, if we think this isn't happening in Oregon or anywhere else we are probably kidding ourselves!

The big difference is that this is happening in a place we all know and the press is on board.

My dear friend, a coach, lost his job for bringing something similar to light.

Children are being abused all over the world! Open your eyes just in case it is in your corner of the world!

Thanks for speaking out VM.

Praying for those boys and their families!

p.s. you know that janitor would have lost his job, and I think he knew that still nothing would have been done. He isn't far off from being that child. I don't agree, but I can't judge him. Some feel powerless in the face of such evil. Victims of abuse are everywhere.

lornadoone said...

As someone who knows far more about this topic than anyone should, I can say with some certainty that the fact that this was covered up--that the graduate student saw it happening and didn't stop it, that the answer was to simply ban the coach from having kids on campus, etc.--will haunt those boys as much as the abuse itself. That betrayal is simply an extension of the acts forced upon those children.

Pent-Up Photos said...

I am shocked by the facts you gave on Smithville. You are a small town! I thought Smithville would be a big, bustling metropolis! So now I am wondering how many of these boys did you know? Or teach? Or attend church with? It can't be easy for those of you who realize the true depths of sadness of this situation. Lives have been changed forever and most of all for those young victims. This debacle will forever be a part of Smithville's history now...a shame to be passed down from generation to generation. Good people shouldering the shames of an evil man and a handful of thoughtless men who did not put the lives of children before football.

I will never understand how that young coach did not beat the stuffings out of the devil when he caught him in the act. I don't get it. No commands to stop? No fist to the face? No cell phone to the ear to call the police? I will never understand how a career could outweigh what he saw happening right before him!

And then the insanity just gets worse as higher officials save their own asses. Pathetic.

I'm proud of you for talking about what you feel the urge to hide. You have always been a champion for children. Your voice is loud and clear. Smithville children need you now more than ever!

Hang in there and keep doing what you do!


Note to Oregon anonymous: We don't want to smear the reputation of the country's meth lab state, do we?

Life After Grad School said...

If this post ends up duplicated, I apologize. I'm having some issues with my internet again.

I want to preface this by saying the entire situation makes me sick. I don't get how any human could abuse a child. I think that anyone who preys on children should be publicly blendarized - it's not a trait we need in our gene pool!

While I wish that the grad assistant had made a police report, most people do not realize the tremendous amount of courage it took for him to simply REPORT the assault he witnessed. That and hind-sight is always 20-20 and I don't think you can reliably say what you'd do in a situation until you are faced with the situation. Studies have continually demonstrate that 80% of people faced with a traumatic situation are incapable of action - they simply freeze. Of the 20% that DO react, 10% react by doing precisely the wrong thing. Incidentally, these studies are the reason why military training is so tough - the military has to "traumatize" the prospective soldiers so that when faced with combat 1. they don't freeze and 2. they don't choose to do the wrong thing. That said, as a former graduate student (I graduated less than 2 years ago) I know that most Americans have no clue about the realities of grad school. The reality of grad school is that it is the last legal form of indentured servitude permitted in the US. You can be kicked out of grad school, losing both your job (if you are a grad or teaching assistant) AND all work towards your degree for some fairly spurious reasons. For example, if you publicly criticize the University or publicly disagree with your advisor, that is grounds for termination. I'm not talking about slander, I'm talking with simple public disagreement. As in, "my advisor interprets my data this way, but this is what I really think is going on." With that in mind, this grad assistant witnessed an assault by someone that the University values MUCH more than any grad student, and STILL reported it. Shame on Penn State that NOTHING was done with the report.

Leslie said...

I am from Nebraska. I don't know if you know that. After thinking about the victims (I've worked on cases like this so I truly KNOW the horror), I realized exactly what you all have to be feeling because it would be exactly the same if it was happening in Lincoln to our University and program.

I know every Husker in attendance in the Valley today was thinking the same thing deep in their hearts. (As soon as I typed "every", I figured there were exceptions...but you know what I mean.)

And Dear Oregon, for shame.

Deb, feel free to pretend you are from Nebraska. We would be honored to have you.

Hugs and love.

anymommy said...

The horror is hard to face, but we have to do it. It's the only way to make it stop and make sure it never, ever happens again. xo. much love as you all heal.

Eileen, Founder, Organizer, Mayor and Chief Cook And Bottle Washer of the Anger Management Girls. said...

Thank you for this beautifully written post.
I can't even begin to imagine what the people in your beautiful little town have been going through.
What I can't help wondering is what the GA and JoePa would have done if it was JoePa's grandson in that locker room. Would either one of them have had to "sleep" on their thoughts before reporting this crime?
Those poor boys are someones sons and grandsons.
Hopefully we all learn lessons from this mess.

Notes From ABroad said...

I have archaic probably what most would think of as barbaric, notions of what should happen to anyone who abuses a child. So I won't speak of my ideas but I do feel a little piece of my heart just shrivelling up when I hear / read stories of child abuse.. wherever it is .. India , Oregon or Buenos Aires.
Having lived in Oregon before moving here, I hate to pop someones fantasy bubble but Oregon is not exempt from this sort of problem .. accept the fact that every state, every city, every country in the world has this problem.
Now our job is to try to eliminate it.

Stacie@hometownperch said...

It makes me sick too. It's so unbelievable to me that so many people knew and nobody had the conscience to call the authorities. Nobody.

If you are the one who saw that, how in the world (not the word I want to use) do you fall asleep at night?!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

So many people have tried to "explain" how this happened; to "rationalize" the actions/inactions of many.

You realize all the above and still you see that the truth is the truth and is not subjective. Thank you for this.

Lynn MacDonald said...

I wrote about this too! I can't even imagine how you feel as a teacher and a person who lives in a small town thats so similar.

We are our brothers keeper...or we are supposed to be at least.

What a fail!

Anonymous said...

After reading the Grand Jury papers, I have been haunted constantly by the images of that poor little boy in the shower. Grad student or not, losing a job or not, how in the world could a person not do the right thing then and there. I think turning and walking away is a true testament to that Coach's character. The countless children who could have been saved their own suffering is endless, if that Coach had done the right thing that night. Don't get me started on the chain of command after that. So what if he went home and told someone the next day. That is not doing the right thing!!!!! Thank you for your words VM.

Judi said...

My heart aches for all of you.....