Since the early morning hours of October 18, 1999, Maggie's family has struggled to understand what happened to her and why it happened.
We have talked to the police department, her friends and teachers at Kalamazoo College, and read the reports of the events leading to that horrendous, fateful moment when another person took her life. We still struggle with the basic questions of "Why did this happen to her/us?" and "Why did this terrible thing happen to a good person like her?"
We were all naïve to believe that because we loved her and protected her so much that she was safe from violence. Because this has happened to our Maggie, we know that it can happen to any of us, in any family, in any town, from any background, at any time. It does not mean that we have to live in fear of violence but that we must do something to decrease violence where we live.
Before Maggie died, we felt, like most people do, that this would never happen to us or our family. But now we are connected to others who have lost loved ones to violence and we know we must try and do something about it.
Our plea is that you explore three particular facets of violence in light of Maggie's death and see what you can do as individuals and families to change the prevalence of this violence in our society. We can't save Maggie now, but violence can be prevented!
FIRST: The person who murdered Maggie did not apparently threaten or abuse her outwardly as evidenced by others. But he did talk about and act out some intentions to hurt himself before he committed the murder/suicide. It seems that everyone who knew him, including members of Maggie's family, missed those signs or thought they were not as serious threats to himself as they actually were. His state of mind is more apparent in retrospect and no one could have prevented what happened to Maggie at the time.
But we can try to pay better attention to others in crisis in the future and try to stop them from hurting themselves or others out of personal despair and unhappiness. It is particularly important for adolescents and young adults to reconsider misgivings about violating personal privacy or "telling on others" when someone they know is in crisis and in danger of hurting themselves. Learn the signs of problems and know where to get help - we can't always help them out by being their friend and talking them out of it. Get help for them at school or at an agency with trained, professional staff.
SECOND: The person who murdered Maggie was able to obtain a powerful hunting rifle with a scope from a local gun shop and conceal it from others on his dorm floor. He was able to purchase it "legally" and use his address at his college. He also purchased it, apparently as a first-time firearm owner, with only a 24-hour waiting period and no check of his background with his hometown police agency in Seattle. Without checking all the local, state and national laws governing guns, it appears to be common sense that a gun purchase should not be allowed with a temporary residence address such as an obvious college dormitory listing.
Declaring a true, permanent residence at time of purchase would allow a more complete background check and would also possibly make those who know the purchaser aware of the impending purchase. In addition, there ought to be a law that a gun shop owner notify college authoritie if a gun has been purchased using a college address. There is no reason, at any time, for anyone to keep a gun on schoolgrounds or on a college campus without severe disciplinary and legal action. Many colleges have a no-tolerance policy about guns on campus, yt according to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health, that 3.5 percent of college students -- or about 450,000 nationwide-- keep a working firearm at school!
Anyone with knowledge of a gun on campus must report that information to campus authorities. It would seem to be necessary for all students and their parents to insist on this level of safety.
THIRD: The person who murdered Maggie would not accept that she had broken off her relationship with him. He used her sense of compassion and desire to not hurt others in order to string out his contact with her longer than she really wanted. In this way, he stalked her through e-mail, ICQ chats and instant messaging on the computer, over the phone to her and her friends, and by the proximity of their dorm rooms and campus activities. He used her willingness to help him work out their breakup and to help him with his college course work. He really wanted to possess her and could not accept that she would be happy with anyone else.
When it became apparent to him that he could not prevent her from moving on without him and that his continued success at school was in jeopardy, he stalked her and then resorted to violence in a final selfish act of murder-suicide.
Our gentle, kind Maggie was the victim of violence against a woman, as a means to control and possess her. This is a horrible act that should not occur in our society, and it is immensely unbelievable that it happened to her who was raised to be non-violent and to show compassion and caring for others. We must learn to help and stop those among us who would hurt women and children as a means to control them.