Just day’s after mourning the eighth anniversary of Deanna’s murder I read this. An eerily familiar story of an unsupervised high school party that started with a few drinks and ended with a tragic death. Joe Loudon was a stand out student (3.8 GPA), a varsity athlete and a dedicated volunteer. He was an all around good kid, like Deanna. He wasn’t murdered, but the mystery surrounding his death has torn the town of Orinda in Northern California apart.
A Twitter account and blog were launched to “solve the crime.” The parties host, high school junior Patrick “P.J.” Gabrielli, was arrested on charges that he had gotten and distributed alcohol to minors. Joe died of asphyxia, which means he drank beer, threw up and choked on his own vomit.
I won’t pretend to understand the details surrounding the case. But having gone through Deanna’s murder at age 16 I can say that playing the blame game is futile. In Deanna’s case her murderer was at fault, but this did not stop people blaming the party’s host for opening his house without supervision, the people in attendance for not stopping the fight, and the parents of the girl who stabbed Deanna through the heart for neglect.
The morning after Deanna was murdered the police showed up at the house of her murder and took her into custody. As the police knocked on her door the girl, just 18 years old, took a lethal dose of Valium and died in custody. In that moment the tragedy doubled. Her parents reacted by suing the LAPD for neglect, continuing the chain of blame.
Tragedy elicits blame and a desire for retribution. We want someone else to suffer. To share our pain. To pay. This is the greatest tragedy of all, for what is most unique about being human is our capacity to forgive. I have forgiven Deanna’s murderer. I have forgiven her parents. But most importantly I have forgiven myself.