The Great Escalating Tragedy

By Alitheia Markopoulos

CROQUET LAWN, KY – Authorities were called to a tense scene at Narrenleute Mall last Tuesday morning. An escalator in the mall’s west wing had come to an abrupt halt, leaving 20 people stranded.

After waiting a few minutes for the escalator to restart, panic began to set in amongst the riders. A few hollered for help while others stood mute, frozen in terror.

One onlooker remarked, “It was surreal. They were just minding their own business, shopping and whatnot and all of a sudden the escalator just stopped. No warning at all. All I could think was, ‘oh my god, what if I had got on that thing?’ Those poor, poor people.”

Witnesses say some on the floor above the escalator tried to coax the stymied riders to start climbing.

“I just don’t understand”, remarked Frida Pressman, a Croquet Lawn resident who was at the mall that morning to pick up new eyeglasses. “They could have easily saved themselves. All they had to do was start walking up the steps. We yelled at them for a really long time – like, just CLIMB! We couldn’t get them to move, it was the strangest thing…it was like yelling at twenty brick walls.”

Firefighters and police on the scene were equally perplexed at the riders’ unwillingness to move, but immediately began working on a plan of action to rescue the victims from this deplorable situation.

Good Samaritans on the ground floor also jumped in to offer assistance, forming a bucket brigade to pass coffee, chocolate covered pretzels and frozen yogurt up to the trapped. The surrounding crowd became energized, chanting “USA! USA! USA!” as the supplies made their way up the chain.

Despite these acts of goodwill, it was apparent the state of mind of each rider was beginning to unravel. One man was observed to be turning around in circles on his step muttering “This is not happening. This is not happening.” Another man began waving his bag from Totin’ Tom’s Gun Emporium around his head yelling “I’m an American! I pay taxes, I don’t deserve this!” Witnesses told us he also continually shouted expletives at those urging him to climb.

“I saw one woman just sit down and close her eyes,” said Bob Dealey, a truck driver from Paducah who served as a coffee runner. “She just gave up I guess. I can’t blame her…this was a complete horror show.”

Luckily, loss of life and limb were averted when a cherry picker was brought in, and one by one plucked the escalators out of their predicament. The crowd heaved a collective sigh of relief and quickly dispersed to get on with their day.

Remarking on what locals are now calling “The Great Escalating Tragedy of 2017”, chairman of the mall’s corporate board, Ian Mark White said,

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. But I gotta tell you, our response to this tragedy was great. Really, really great. I don’t think you’ve ever seen a mall jump this quickly into action in response to such a total disaster. Not many people know this, but I was directing the emergency response team. So many people afterward came up to shake my hand and thank me for what I did. I got so many calls too, thanking me for what I did – so many.”

Others weren’t so effusive with their praise. “I saw that guy run out of his office down to the food court and make sure the vendors were charging full price for those things people were buying for the riders.” said shopper Bill Fields. Another who wished to remain anonymous said “He’s a major stockholder in that coffee shop, Mikhail’s Mug… I wouldn’t be surprised if he orchestrated this whole thing to boost sales.”

Chairman White’s sympathetic remarks to GET victims were a sharp departure from the comments he made last month after 11 senior citizens were stuck for 6 hours in an elevator located on the mall’s south side. Those unfortunate riders belonged to the Early Morning Mall Walkers group, an initiative started by Narrenleute Mall’s previous chairman to benefit both seniors and those who cannot afford gym memberships.

At the time, White was criticized for not alerting authorities for at least 3 hours after the elevator failed. In an interview with Croquet Lawn Weekly, he was recorded as saying, “Those people don’t even come here to buy anything. After a fair yet extreme vetting process, we allow them to use our concourses for their morning walks. It was their choice to get on that elevator [unintelligible mumbling]…they didn’t even try to pry the doors open. I mean, our main responsibility is to put hard-working mall shoppers FIRST.”

[FACT CHECK: Studies done by the National Mall Data Group show that seniors who walk Narrenleute’s concourses are liberal spenders, accounting for 40% of the gross mall product (GMP). In particular, their demographic dominates in purchases of Comfort Clogs at the His n Hers Shoes outlet, as well as the morning buffet at Early Bird Gets the Waffle.]

White also sharply rebuked allegations that he hadn’t had the elevator inspected in the 16 months since he was named Chairman. “You don’t understand the mess I inherited. A lot of work I have to do to fix up this dump… [unintelligible mumbling]…those inspection stickers are fake…FAKE STICKERS!”

We reached out to an official representative from Chuck Inspects All, an elevator and escalator inspection firm that has worked with Narrenleute in previous years. They confirmed they have not received a call to inspect any vertical transports at Narrenleute Mall since the previous chairman retired.

Editor’s Update: After this article went to press, we received a call from Walter Hewey, one of the GET 20. He informed us he is recovering nicely with an emotional support dog and long walks in the woods. He is also planning to form a grassroots organization to be named MEGA (Make Escalators Go Again). Its main mission will be to raise stuck escalator awareness and provide support to the other victims and their families. MEGA’s informational website and online store will be launched this spring at meganow.net.

Dedicated to my friends in The Resistance. Thanks for keeping the light on.

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Libby’s Two Days

Introducing a short story by our guest writer, Sarah Harper. She was kind enough to let her mother post this and be all braggy and stuff. Enjoy! – Robin

Chapter 1

‘’Beep! Beep!’’ My sister shouted.

I rubbed my eyes, still half asleep.

After my alarm clock broke, my mom joked to my little sister, Cat, that she could be my new alarm clock.  Of course, Cat took this quite literally, and has been beeping ever since.

Oh, I guess I should introduce myself instead of talking about broken alarm clocks.

My name is Lillian, or the preferred Libby. And my little sister’s name is Willow, but since she doesn’t like being named after a type of tree, she nicknamed herself after her favorite animal.

‘’BeepBeepBeepBeep!’’ Cat hollered once again.

‘’O-Okay Okay! I hear you!’’ I say, slowly climbing out of bed.

‘’Hey Libby, guess what?’’.

‘’…What?’’ I ask, a bit afraid.

‘’Mom isn’t awake…’’, Said Cat.

Oh no.

‘So you have to make us breakfast!’’

‘’Ugh, fine, what do you want?’’ I said

‘’Extra buttery pancakes, toast, but no crust, bacon, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a scoop of ice cream with hot fudge.’’ She smirked at me, I knew she said all that just to spite me.

‘’No’’, I said with a frown.

‘’Pwetty pwease?’’ Cat stuck out her lip and started doing puppy dog eyes, ironically.

‘’Cat, that doesn’t work and you know it.’’

‘’Too bad!’

‘’This is ridiculous, how about we just have some oatmeal?’’

‘’Fine’’, Cat said sadly.

Chapter 2  

‘’Wait! Wait! Wait for me!’’ I shout as the bus passes by me.  I swear I could see my sister sticking her tongue out at me through the window.

Man, now I have to walk to school, and it’s hot out.

The heat blazes at me, and I’m sweating all over, I’m pretty sure the sun’s laughing at me.

I try to start running, but I quickly run out of energy.

I’m hot, I’m tired, and now my throat’s dry.

I turn my head to the neighbors house, they have a pool. No… I can’t possibly…

Knock Knock.

‘’Oh- Ms Jackson, what happened to you? Why are you so wet? And why are you barefoot?’’ My teacher, Mrs. Koffi, says.

‘’Uh…’’ I say.

‘’Nevermind, There’s some spare clothes in the closet.’’ Says Mrs. Koffi.

‘’Thank you, Mrs Koffi.’’

I quickly run out of the classroom, I feel so stupid.  Who even does that?

All the clothes in the closet were sweatpants and shirt with the school mascot on it, for a second, I was considering wearing the wet clothes instead, but I decided against it, for it would take hours for the clothes to dry.

There was unfortunately no shoes, I left my shoes at the neighbors house. Man, I really liked those shoes.

After I got changed, I looked in my backpack, Luckily there was my gym sneakers, but no socks, so I guess I have to deal with the blisters.

I slowly crept back into my classroom , today I was glad that my desk was in the back.

I was still tired, doesn’t help that math is boring.

Maybe I could just lay down my head…

Wait, where am I?

One second I was in my class, now I’m in a grassy field wearing a cape.               ‘’Libby! Help!’’I heard a familiar voice, It was my sister! In a cage!

‘’Cat?! What are you doing in there?’’  

‘ ’She trapped me in here!’’                                                                     

‘’She?’’

                                                 

Chapter 3

Just then, I saw a very tall person walking towards us, she had yellow snakes for hair, and a long pink torn up dress that covered her legs.

‘’Who are you? And what are you doing with my sister?’’

‘’I took your sister so I can steal her cuteness!’’ The tall woman cackled, and started to pull a large switch next to the cage.

‘’You won’t get away with this.’’ I glared, and then, somehow, pulled a entire sword out of my pocket.

‘’Oh, too bad that I know your weakness.’’ The snake woman then pulled a huge crate out of her pocket, and opened it.

Out came scurrying spiders, big ones, little ones, and medium ones.

I gasped and dropped my sword.

‘’SPIDERS!’’

‘’I’m pretty sure ‘’spiders’’ isn’t the answer to 4 divided by 2,  Miss Jackson.’’

I opened my eyes to see a classroom and 18 kids laughing and pointing at me.

My face turned bright red, and at that moment, a someone raised their hand and said:

‘’Its 2, Mrs. Franklin’’

I turn my head to see who said it, and almost growled when I saw who it was, but the bell rang, and it was time for lunch.

‘’It’s okay, Libby, I do that all the time.’’

That was the voice of my best friend, Phil, we’ve been friends since preschool, but sometimes he creeps me out, because his glasses are completely opaque, and you never see his eyes.

‘’Yeah, but i’m not you.’’ I remark.

‘’Still… Anyway, what’s with those clothes? I thought you hated wearing sweatpants in public.’’ He asked.

“Well…Don’t tell anyone about this but, long story short, I jumped into my neighbor’s pool.’’

‘’Wha- wh-, nevermind…’’ I can see the judgment in his eyes.

‘’Don’t judge me! It’s hot out there!’’

‘’Hot enough to jump into your neighbor’s pool?’’

‘’Yeah! It’s like a desert out there!’’

‘’Sure it is.’’

‘’Whatever…’

 

Chapter 4

‘’Good morning Lillian and Phillip, may I sit here?’’

I look up at who was talking and narrow my eyes, It was Susie, my worst enemy.

‘’Uhm, hello..Susie..Sure…’’ Phil is head over heels for her, much to my dismay.

‘’Ahem, Susie, we don’t go by those names, how would you feel if we called you Susanna all the time?’’ I say as matter of factly.

‘’Oh dear, my sincerest of apologies, Libby.’’

That made me angrier, why did she have to be so perfect all the time?

Susie lay down her lunch box and sat down, she even sits perfectly!

I looked down at my sloppy joe and poked it, and then looked back up at Susie and Phil.

Susie has a peanut and jelly sandwich, and is cutting it to small pieces with a knife and fork.  While Phil has a piece of white bread and water.

‘’So, what are you guys doing this weekend?’’ I ask, breaking the silence.

‘’Oh! I’m doing a lemonade stand this weekend!’’ Susie chirps up.

‘’A lemonade stand, huh? Well, me and Phil are doing one as well!’’ I proudly say.

‘’Hey, I didn’t agree to-’’ Phil about to say, but I slap my hand over his mouth.

‘’Were both just so excited!’’ I say just as cheerful.

‘’Well, maybe see you tomorrow!’’ Susie then picks up her lunch box and leaves.

‘’Okay, two things, one, you didn’t say anything about starting a lemonade stand, two, OW,’’ Phil says.

‘’Sorry…But I just need to beat her at something!’’ I exclaim.

‘’What’s your obsession with one upping her?’’ Phil questions.

‘’Well…It all started long ago…’’

‘’Alright, ladies and gentlemen, our last two contestants are up, Lillian , your word is xylophone.’’

‘’X-l-o-p-o-n-e’’ A young Libby says proudly.

‘’I’m sorry, Lillian, that is incorrect, Susie, your turn is up, if you get it right, then you’ll go on to our state spelling bee and get one trillion dollars!’’

‘’X-y-l-o-p-h-o-n-e.’’ Susie says.

‘’Congrats! Susie you have won and now have a trillion dollars and a mansion!’’

‘’Nooooooooo!!!’’

 

Chapter 5

‘’Libby, is that story even real?’’ Phil asks.

‘’Well-sort of, but she still won the spelling bee!’’

‘’So you now have a obsession with beating her at something because she won the spelling bee, 5 years ago?’’

‘’It may sound stupid, but it would make more sense if you were me!’’

‘’Sure.’’

The bell rang again, meaning it was time for recess.

When me and Phil came outside, I ran to the monkey bars, I love them but Phil doesn’t go on them because of an incident that we shall not speak of.

‘’I can’t believe that you still go on those after that incident with the honey badger-’’

‘’Hey! You promised not to speak about it again!’’

‘’So? I should be able to speak about it, it was your fault.’’

‘’Was not!’’

‘’What are you guys talking about?’’ Susie asks.

‘’An incident that involved a honey badger, a beehive, and a 7th grader that caused Phil to fall off the monkey bars and break a arm and a leg.’’

‘’Yeah, I was super brave, ‘’ Says Phil looking up, wind blowing in his hair as he flexes his muscles. (No, that’s not what happened, but I added that in anyway to make him feel better.)

‘’Actually, you cried for four hours straight and now you’re too afraid to even go near the monkey bars,’’ I admit.

‘’She’s just saying that.’’ Phil mutters, his face turning dark red.

Susie giggles,  “Thanks for telling me, anyway.’’

The end-of-the-day bell rings as Phil shoots me an angry look.

I look in my backpack and pull out my other clothes, there dry, just a little damp around the edges.

I go into the bathroom and change into my clothes, I can at least look better on the bus.

‘’Bye, Libby.’’ Phil waves goodbye and gets into his mom’s car.

I also wave goodbye and walk to the bus.

 

Chapter 6

The bus ride was as noisy and dirty as ever.  Kids screaming, the bus driver screeching at them to be quiet, and gum stuck all over the floor.

I sat in the front seat, the window doesn’t open, but at least it’s not sticky.

As always, I forgot that’s where the kindergarteners sit, so the entire bus ride consisted of them pulling my hair, me yelling at them to stop, then the bus driver yelling at me to stop yelling at the kindergarteners, repeat.  I was so glad when I got off.   

‘’Cat! I’m home!’’ I shouted. I instantly regretted it as Cat walked in, she was wearing a neon pink dress, dress up make up, and mom’s old high heels.

‘’Cat! What did you do?!’’

‘’I’m not Cat, I’m Princess Fluffy Cupcakes,’’ Cat says, walking towards the kitchen like some sort of super model.

Oh no, not Princess Fluffy Cupcakes again.

When Cat was 3, she made up a character named Princess Fluffy Cupcakes and has been dressing as her ever since.  The worst part about it is that she does it at random times, so we all dread the day when she decides to dress as her.

‘’Now, go make me food.’’ Princess Fluffy Cupcakes demanded.

‘’Why should I?’’ I asked.

‘’Because you’re my loyal servant and I told you to.’’

‘’Hey, I didn’t agree to being your servant.’’

‘’Would you rather be the jester?’’

‘’No.’’

‘’Then go make me food.’’

‘’Fine,’’ I say like Cat did this morning.

I grab the box of jello, and pour it into the bowl, now, i’m not exactly sure how to make jello, but I have a basic idea.

I get some cold water from the sink, I saw some people use boiling water, but who wants hot jello?

When I mixed it, it just became some weird red mush, oh well.I start to make pancakes, Cat, I mean, Princess Fluffy Cupcakes, likes her pancakes very buttery, I’m not sure how much butter mom puts on, so I just an entire stick of butter on the pancakes and put it in the microwave.

‘’Ouch!’’ I yell as the hot butter dripping off the plate reaches my hand.

So I got jello and pancakes, what do I need?  A drink! I saw some people in movies mash grapes with their feet to make fancy drinks, so that’s what I do

                                             

Chapter 7

‘’Here you go, Mrs. Cupcakes.’’

Cat scrunches her nose up in a disgusted sort of way, how ungrateful!

But then, I see a creepy smile come on to her face.

Cat picks up the pancakes, jello, and drink, and pours it all over the floor.

‘’Start cleaning.’’

‘’Argh! Cat! I have a lemonade stand to prepare for!’’

Cat only laughs as she starts walking up the stairs.

‘’Oh, and by the way, mommy’s coming home in 10 minutes, so chop chop.’’

There is no way i’m cleaning that up, i’ll just say Cat did it.

“Kids! I’m hom-What is that?!’’

‘’Cat did it.’’

‘’I’m disappointed in you….’’

I grinned at the thought of Cat getting grounded, what would her punishment be? No playdates? Take away her toys?

‘’….For letting your little sister dump all her food on the floor!’’

The shock hit me so hard that I almost fell over, but I kept my balance.

‘’But mom! I made her all that food and then dumped it all over the floor!’’

‘’Letting your sister do that? Blaming her? Not cleaning it up? I’ve heard enough, you are grounded, young lady!’’ Mom looked pretty upset, but so was I.

‘’But-’’

‘’No buts, now, I need a nap…’’

What was I going to now? Susie was expecting me to have a lemonade stand, and I was not gonna let her 1-up me any more.

You know what they say, desperate times call for drastic measures.
Chapter 8

‘’Hey, Phil!’’ I call out.

‘’Oh, Libby! You’re here!, I thought you would never come.’’

‘’Well, I almost didn’t….’’ I half admit.

‘’What? Why?’’

‘’Oh, nothing…Anyway, where’s Susie?’’

‘’She’s coming in about 5 minutes.’’

‘’How do you know?’’

‘’I called her.’’

‘’What?! How do you have her phone number?!’’

‘’Oh…I just asked her…And she gave it to me….Yeah.’’

‘’Uh, Okay.’’

‘’Hi guys!’’ Susie yells.

Her parents were carrying a large pink box, I suddenly felt embarrassed of our small box that was called a lemonade stand.

‘’Hey guys! How are you doing?’’ Susie asks.

‘’Oh, could be better…’’ I lied, we were miserable.

‘’I’m sorry, Libby,’’ Susie started pouring lemonade into cups.

Just then I noticed something, the lemonade was pink! No way were we getting any money!

‘’Phil, do you have any red food dye?’’

“No’’

Darn, there goes that idea.

We waited for a little while until a few people came.

‘’Mommy, I’m thirsty, can I get lemonade?’’ A little girl said.

‘’Okay’’

They started to walk towards our stand before the girl said:

‘’No, I want pink lemonade, yellow lemonade is boring’’

Subtle, I thought.

Hours after hours, Susie got more and more money, although, a lady gave us a penny, probably because she felt bad for us.

‘’Phil, it’s hopeless, we’re never going to get any money.’’

I was right, night came, and we still only had one penny.

I was tired, and angry, and with that mindset, I grabbed a cup of Susie’s lemonade, and poured it over her head.

 

Chapter 9

‘’Hey! What did you do that for?!’’ Susie throws lemonade in my face in a rage.

‘’I need backup, Phil!’’ I shout, He luckily brings over all our lemonade.

People start crowding around and recording us, which is unsurprising, since we’re some random kids throwing lemonade at each other in the middle of the street.

‘’Oooo! A lemonade fight!’’ I hear a familiar voice, it’s my little sister!

Wait a second, how did she get here? She obviously can’t drive.

Oh no, Oh no, Oh no.

‘’Lillian Annie Jackson! What are you doing!’’

‘’Mom! How did you get here?!’’

‘’That’s not important, why are you here?’’

‘’Well-’’

‘’Nevermind, I don’t need an explanation, you’re officially grounded until school is over!’’

‘’What? No! You can’t do that!’’

‘’Oh, yes I can’’

‘’Hey, Libby, you guys are all over the internet!’’ Cat says, pointing at my phone.

‘’Oh, my mom’s going to be so mad! I’m getting out of here!’’ Phil says, running down the street.

So much for backup.

‘’All right, the show is over, go home.’’ My mom says, shooing the crowd.

Then she grabs my arm and takes us to the car.

The car ride itself was silent, not a word was spoken.

‘’Alright Libby, go to bed.’’ Mom’s voice was soft, but her face was stern.

‘’But it’s only 9:30!’’ I complain.

‘’That’s your punishment for tonight.’’

I reluctantly head up to my room, just a minute after I close my door, a little note is slipped under my door.

Hey, tonight we are having spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, and even cookies and ice cream for dessert, not that you can have any 🙂 — Cat

 

Chapter 10

I made this short chapter to tell you guys what has happened while i’m grounded.

My mom took away my computer so I have to write this chapter myself, which is very painful, by the way.

Although, I’m in my room most of the time, so that means peace and quiet.

Almost.

It’s still very boring, I can call Phil, but I can’t really do anything.

Oh well, i’ll find something.

‘’Libby! The neighbors just called! They said you jumped in their pool yesterday!’’ Says mom.

Uh oh.

THE END

About the Author

Sarah Harper was born on an island where she currently lives and waits with anticipation to grow up and travel “off-island” (also called “the rest of the world”). She enjoys reading books, comics and eating mac and cheese while sharing a house with her Mom, Dad and big sister. Her chosen weapons are kindness and humor — watch out for this one.

libby-cover

Rerun

Crank the volume
Hands at ten and two
Don’t
Take a scroll
Busy hands, idle mind
Leave
Nothing to see here
Turn up the glare
Me
Lost in a cul-de-sac
The familiar bird sings
Alone
At last a destination
Its aluminum gates yawn
With
Rusty twang
exposed too long
Her
Heart finds no place
To hide anymore.

You’ve Been Hired: An Employee Guidebook for Donald J. Trump

Dear Donald J. Trump,

As you know, on November 8th, 2016 you were hired to hold the office of the President of the United States. You are now a public servant. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and the 300 million other citizens of this Republic, otherwise known as We the People. We are your employers — the collective “Boss” if you will.

On January 20th, 2017, you will begin your employment with the swearing of an oath. From that day on, until the end of your 4 year term, you are responsible for the following duties. While responsibilities of this office have generally been understood by its previous 44 occupants, as you are new to public service, we feel the need to acquaint you with the POTUS employee handbook.

You will conduct yourself in a manner befitting the Office. This includes putting all of its citizens and residents before yourself and treating them ALL with the respect and decency they deserve.

You will uphold and defend the entirety of the Constitution of the United States. This document is not ala carte. We suggest you familiarize yourself with it by thoughtfully and carefully reading it in its entirety.

You will publicly condemn and act swiftly to eradicate all acts of hate, violence and discrimination, particularly those directed toward marginalized peoples including, but not limited to African-Americans, Muslims, Native Americans and people from the LBGTQ community. You will also publicly condemn and act swiftly to eradicate discrimination and violence towards women.

You are also expected to work tirelessly towards the following goals:

  • Ensuring all citizens and residents have access to adequate, affordable health care.
  • Ensuring all citizens and residents have access to an adequate and affordable education.
  • Ensuring all citizens and residents have access to clean drinking water and clean air to breathe.
  • Ensuring all citizens and residents have the opportunity to earn a living wage and that no man, woman or child will go hungry or be without a home.
  • Ensuring that members of our armed services and their families are well-compensated for the incredible sacrifices they make to protect this country — and that they will be given every resource needed to heal any harm,  to mind or body, that may have befallen them while in service.
  • Ensuring that the private business interests of both you and your family members do not financially profit or otherwise gain from your role as President of the United States.
  • You will work with other heads of state to support and enact initiatives to help protect the future health of our planet.
  • You will not redirect precious resources that are needed for the above goals towards wasteful and/or unconstitutional initiatives, including, but not limited to, building walls on our borders, creating a registry of people of a particular faith and mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

If I have inadvertently omitted any necessary duties above, I call on all of my fellow employers and members of the human resources department to supplement this list. In addition, if the above guidelines are not adhered to by the Employee with 100% good faith and dedication, I beseech We The People to terminate employment.

Best of luck. Now get to work.

Robin Harper

 

 

 

Unfueling the Fire: Amanda Knox, Steven Avery and My Foray into the Court of Social Media

Netflix released two documentaries in the past year, Making a Murderer and Amanda Knox. Both films covered the murder trials and wrongful convictions of two individuals respectively – Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for the killing of 25 year old Theresa Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin and Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito – for the 2007 slaying of 21 year old Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. Like many others, I was intrigued by both of these cases that captured the world’s attention and inspired contentious debate.

The case of Theresa Halbach became widely known after the December 2015 release of Making a Murderer. MaM is the strange and twisted story that focuses mainly on Steven Avery, a man wrongfully convicted of rape and imprisoned for 18 years, exonerated of the crime by DNA and released, only to then be convicted and imprisoned again for Halbach’s murder only 2 short years later.

The Meredith Kercher case became international news due to the brutal nature of the crime and the stunningly unusual suspects  – Meredith’s roommate, a pretty, 20 year old college student from Seattle named Amanda Knox and her new Italian boyfriend, Sollecito.

So what, you may ask, besides the victims both being young women, does a murder in Wisconsin have to do with another that occurred two years later and half a world away?

If you look beyond the obvious differences between the two cases, you can see some startling parallels:

  1. A beautiful young woman is murdered and the case garners international attention, with the public demanding justice.
  1. A morally ambiguous prosecutor with a seemingly personal agenda manufactures and releases information with the direct intent to vilify the accused with conjecture, half truths and downright lies unsupported by any concrete evidence.
  1. The collection and processing of the forensic evidence is tainted and compromised by the crime scene techs, investigators and the lab.
  1. Zero credible DNA evidence is found to link the accused to the crime.
  1. There are strong supportive arguments that evidence was planted.

In the Halbach case, it is theorized and may be proven in the near future by Avery’s attorney Kathleen Zellner that Manitowoc County law enforcement, motivated by a wish to escape a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the county for Avery’s first conviction, did in fact plant physical evidence to incriminate Steven Avery. The magically appearing RAV key, Avery’s “sweat” DNA on the hood latch of Theresa’s car, his blood near the steering wheel that suspiciously bore the outline of a Q-tip, and more.

But what physical evidence was planted by law enforcement  in the Kercher case? None. In this case, the planting was done through a subtler route, and one not likely to win an overturned conviction in a court of law – yet it was just as damaging. What evidence is this? The frenzied, all-out character assassination of Amanda Knox by the press, that like a monster gobbled up her suit of protective armor that we call “innocent until proven guilty.”

I sat down this past Friday night to watch the documentary, Amanda Knox and wasn’t disappointed. It isn’t a standard A-Z rehashing of the case, but rather a study on how the press coverage of the trial played a major part in her conviction. From day one, the headlines screamed in large font about “Foxy Knoxy” – calling her a she-devil, a villainous leader of a satanic sex cult who killed Meredith to satisfy her own lust-driven thirst for blood. Like a modern-day Iago, the press planted evidence of her guilt in the minds and hearts of a public desperate for justice, while appealing to the darker side of humanity hungry for salacious details of a sex-crazed, murderous sociopath.

On Saturday morning I logged on to Facebook and checked in with the Steven Avery & Brendan Dassey Project – a group I’ve belonged to for a better part of the year where people from across the world have joined to discuss the case, analyze the evidence, or simply show support for the two men they believe (rightfully so) to be wrongfully imprisoned for Theresa Halbach’s murder.

At the top of the newsfeed, I saw someone had posted that the Amanda Knox documentary was now available. Since I had just watched it, this piqued my interest and I clicked through to read the comments on what others thought of it. This is what I saw:

“She’s guilty”

“I watched it last night, I thought she was guilty as hell”

Others were more circumspect, not saying she was guilty outright, but leaning toward that conclusion based on Amanda’s seemingly odd behavior the day of the murder.

“Either Amanda Knox is the least observant and most aloof person in history or she played a role in Meredith Kercher’s death. I really can’t see any other logical alternative.”

These statements stunned me coming from members of this group in particular. This is not because I think we should all blindly believe that every person convicted of murder is innocent. It is because the second Amanda Knox was acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court, her presumption of innocence was restored. To declare her guilty in a public forum without offering any new or credible evidence to back up your claims is taking it upon yourself to chip away at that presumption of innocence – in a group, no less, whose sole mission is to help release two other wrongfully convicted individuals.

I journeyed a bit farther into Facebook as it informed me that the term “Amanda Knox” was trending. I read comments made on posts about the documentary shared by Time Magazine, Netflix, New York Magazine and many others.

A disturbing pattern began to emerge. While a fair amount of commenters agreed with the Italian Supreme Court’s ruling, more often than not I read comments like these:

“Guilty.”

“She’s guilty.”

“That cunt is guilty”

“You know that lying whore did it”

“I hope that bitch rots in hell for what she did to Meredith”

“All this did was show me that she got away with murder. I don’t care there was no DNA everything points to her and it’s so obvious. She does lie well though it seems.”

“Her face gives me the creeps…textbook sociopath”

Again, we see no evidence is offered to corroborate these statements of guilt. I am not in the business of censoring people, everyone has a right to express their opinions. But just because it’s your right, does that make it right?

In this day and age we have access to all kinds of social media platforms where with just a few clicks and taps, our opinions and judgments have the potential to be seen by thousands or even millions of people.

The death knell rings on the era of Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Woodward & Bernstein, as more and more of us look to social media as our sole source of news and social commentary. It also places the responsibility that comes with reporting the news more heavily on our own shoulders.

And with this responsibility comes a choice – to use the vehicle of social media for good or evil. When we declare a verdict of guilt on a living, breathing human being are we using critical thinking based on concrete fact? Or do we condemn a person for the most heinous crime on Earth as casually as we would vote someone off Dancing with the Stars?

In truth, this essay was not written to determine the guilt or innocence of Amanda Knox or Steven Avery. Amanda Knox has already been found innocent by a court of law, and Steven is well on his way to hopefully be found the same. It was written to point out that for each of us – what we Post, what we Tweet, what we Share in these situations – it matters.

So when the next big case comes along, and the person or persons involved are facing life and death consequences, I urge you to ask yourself, “What part will I play in the next trial by social media? Will I unfuel the fire, or add my stick and watch it burn? Because until we start asking ourselves that, we become part of the problem – and WE make the murderers.

June 20

About a face I dreamed,
that in the glare was twice forgotten.
And a meadow shared, with lilac witness,
of promise freely given.
In the dream I beg the dandelions,
hold your seeds a little longer,
show your heads full and hold them high.
For the keeper ticks his clock by you,
and only deceit will grant us more time.

Childhood

Scar Maps

Scars have always fascinated me. They start out as this wound, a disruption – painful and unwelcome. The healing goes to work, but in refusing to conform to your original design it leaves behind a permanent reminder of the moment of injury – your very own life souvenir if you will. Over time it’s no longer foreign, naturalizing to your skin’s landscape as if it was there from the beginning.

Whenever I see scar on someone I want to know the story, and there’s almost always one to tell. People can point to a scar and tell you what year it was, what they were doing, who they were with and how much it hurt. It can serve as a cautionary tale or justification for major bragging rights. In some cases it can be inherently more valuable – offering a deeper understanding of that person you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Today I took an inventory of mine (the ones I can see anyway) and realized that the most of them came to be before I reached the age of 20.

Age 8 – right foot, 2nd toe: little squiggle from dragging a canoe over my foot at summer camp.

Age 11 – left shin: from hot cooking pan dropped on my leg while attempting to cook bacon during the 6th grade camping trip.

Age 15 – left knee: from smashing into a track hurdle attempting to win my heat (why my coach thought I had the legs for hurdles, I can’t tell you).

Age 16 – right arm, halfway between the wrist and elbow: from slashing my arm on a rusty pole sticking out of the ground as I helped someone carry a keg.

Age 32 – left hand, thumb: sliced on a tomato soup can lid as I attempted to twist it off.

This realization startled me and I began wondering, have I become wiser, more sure-footed? Doubtful. Is my skin more durable now? Or have I simply ceased to have fun? To not take enough chances?

We all have a map of scars – some from the mundane, some from tragedy – others from moments of joy. For most of us they don’t take much precedence in our day to day lives – mostly ignored, just a small piece of you that didn’t heal according to plan. But what if you took a moment to follow that map? Where might it lead you? Maybe somewhere interesting.