Sunday, September 6, 2015

Killings, Fires and Strange Events This Summer in Eugene-Springfield, Oregon

I've hesitated writing about this, because I want to respect the people involved: the living friends and families who are also victims. Often it seems to me that when we start writing about tragic events, a veil of disrespect, a blithe aura, appears that ignores the fact of those most affected. It often just seems so damn exploitative.

But it is all so weird and strange and inexplicable, the summer of deaths in our town -- and other odd events -- that I have to put them out there.

Eugene has a population of roughly 160,000. Our neighbor city east of us, Springfield, has a population of about 60,000. And then there are the small towns all around us, like Junction city, with a population of 5,000. In these relatively small towns over the summer and continuing into September, there have been several murders, suicides, murder-suicides (friends of mine knew one of the victims) and attempted murders and suicides, as well as odd events such as the public transportation bus driver who hoaxed a bomb threat, that is transcends statistical "norms."

So much so that the people you wouldn't expect to say anything regarding the observation that this is all very weird, are saying how very weird it is.

When I first moved to this area over thirty years ago, of course the town was smaller, less populated, less built up, friendlier (despite the psychotic anti-California vibe) and less crime filled. Now of course, the town is bigger, more congested, more populated, less friendly (anti-California vibe still strong however) and a lot more crime. But this summer has seen more than the expected in terms of killing.

From the Register Guard newspaper:
12 Dead in Three Months: A look at this summer in Eugene-Springfield area.

Shooting Victim Lured to his Death

The Seattle Times: 3 Violent Deaths in Eugene-Springfield Area Since Friday

Not just killings, but odd behaviors in general, such as the bomb hoax. Bus driver Alex Reutov, a bus driver for over ten years and with "no history of any issues…" was arrested for his part in a hoaxed bomb threat. 

We also had a 4.2 earthquake in Eugene this summer; June 5th.  I was in bed, awake, when it happened. At first I thought the shaking and rumbling was from a truck going by -- a huge uber-truck, to be sure -- but Jim said "Nope, this is an earthquake!" Things shook, the bed moved… scary for a few moments.

It has also been unusually hot, breaking records for summer temperatures.

Fires. The Pacific Northwest, California, the southwest, have had their share of wildfires this summer. The air has been thick with smoke, ash covering cars, asthma patients have had a very bad time (I know I have, I've never had attacks this bad.) Taking Amtrak's Coast Starlight to southern California in late August I could smell the smoke all through Oregon and parts of California, see it in the air. Very bad. But there were also two sad fire related events this summer in Eugene, just a couple of weeks apart.

June 29th, the historic Civic Stadium went up in flames:
Just two months after a deal was hammered out to give it new life as a facility for kids' sports, a 78-year-old abandoned stadium on the National Register of Historic Places went up in flames Monday in Eugene, Oregon, as onlookers mournfully sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." (NBC News)
August 5th, the Southtowne Lanes bowling alley burned to the ground.

The Civic Stadium fire's cause was arson (though unintentional, it appears. young kids playing around with dry leaves and lighters. So far, the view is that the boys didn't think beyond what they were doing and didn't intentionally set the fire) the bowling alley, old electrical wiring gone bad. Both buildings were old, historic sites the community held good memories for.  To have both buildings go up in flames, and a week apart, destroyed without any prospects of being restored, is very strange.

It's a sad but realistic fact that murders, suicides, attempts at both, fires, earthquakes and individuals going off the track are not uncommon, and happen everywhere. Our area however, has seen an unusual, concentrated madness this summer, and it seems to be continuing. The question is why? Is there an answer? It's been off the charts hot, the fires have contributed to fear, illness, pollution, and stress. Suicides, murders, can, and do, trigger others. But those are simplistic reasons, and, while not unreasonable explanations, don't seem to be complete ones.

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