Showing posts with label mall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mall. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Yes, again

Not again.

Yes, again.

Tell me it wasn't Westroads.

No, it was Millard South High School.

How many dead?

An assistant principal and the shooter, by his own hand. A Glock ain't an assault rifle, and Omaha got a little lucky this time. Just a little.

"This time." That's a hell of a couple of words -- this time. They mean it's happened here before -- which it has. They mean it probably will happen again -- which I wouldn't doubt.

"This time." A hell of a thing, "this time." A hell of a thing that means I can just recycle what I wrote about last time, which is, in itself, a hell of a thing. This matter of history -- and youthful domestic terrorism -- repeating itself in my city. In Omaha.

Mayor Jim Suttle said this thing "descended on our city." No, things like this don't descend on a city, except in the sense that evil descends upon a place to wreak its havoc. Things like what 17-year-old Robert Butler Jr., unleashed don't descend so much as they're carefully constructed in the human heart.

Fitfully hatched in a demented mind.

Cynically incubated in a full-blown culture of death. That would be us, the world's new barbarians.

HERE'S WHAT I wrote three years ago, when youthful mayhem "descended" on Omaha in 2007 during the Von Maur massacre. Not a damned thing has changed except the name, the place and the extent of the carnage.

Just replace "Robert A. Hawkins" with "Robert Butler Jr.," "Christmas shoppers and salespeople" with "students and faculty." Call it good.

Or very, very bad.

Robert A. Hawkins was a terrorist just as much as is Osama bin Laden. Osama's a big leaguer; Robbie Hawkins was a rookie-league screwball pitcher. How do you like your newfound fame, kid?

I can appreciate that Hawkins was a sad, tormented and pathological young adult. I can. So were Hank Williams and Janis Joplin, but they still managed to leave behind much beauty in this world and killed no one but, ultimately, themselves.

And let's not forget Vincent van Gogh.

Robbie Hawkins' legacy is death, panic, mayhem, gore and heartbreak. Thousands of years of human tradition and theology tell us mayhem and death are the province of the Evil One, and modern psychology can offer no treatment -- no effective prophylactic -- for the demonic.

Robert A. Hawkins, age 20, was a sick young man. A sick young man who listened to the devil inside. A sick young man for whom self-murder just wasn't good enough.

No, he had to take eight others with him on his way out.

I grieve for the hell Robbie Hawkins' life became, just as I weep over the hell on earth he brought to innocent Christmas shoppers and salespeople. I will not, however, make excuses for what he did -- what he did to eight fellow humans, what he did to their families and friends, what he did to this city.

This city . . . Omaha. My home.

With great difficulty, I pray that God has more mercy on Robbie Hawkins' tormented soul than Robbie Hawkins had on a bunch of innocent people he knew not from Adam. But that doesn't change what Hawkins decided to become Wednesday afternoon -- a terrorist. Albeit one without a clue.

WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY that has fetishized sex, violence, death and materialism. None of the above can fill the void that haunts our being. None of the above can give adequate meaning to young lives like the one Robert A. Hawkins threw away in that Omaha shopping mall.

Americans are quick to mock those young, Islamic terrorists who embrace suicide, murder and carnage for the greater glory of Allah -- and the chance to screw themselves silly in Paradise with 72 hot virgins.

But at least they kill -- and die -- for something, no matter how warped.

For what did Robbie Hawkins -- and all his youthful predecessors like Harris,
Klebold and Cho -- kill . . . and die?

For what?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ex-Lax for your Bieberized brain

If this bit of Timi Yuro/Hank Cochran deliciousness can't purge "Omaha Mall" from your brain, electroshock treatments are your only hope. Really.

That is all.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What the hell did you think he meant?

These people didn't have to die.

But they did, because this story in the Omaha World-Herald today proves we've learned absolutely, positively nothing in the wake of Virginia Tech.

AND THAT staggering stupidity -- at least on the part of one Bellevue, Neb., houseful of nimrods -- meant there would be . . . had to be an Omaha massacre. Godamighty, I hope there's something the cops can charge these fools with.

Read the following by Lynn Safranek and Paul Hammel and weep:
Robert Hawkins spoke about shooting people in large places before he did just that, killing eight people and wounding three more at Von Maur, according to police documents filed Friday in Douglas County District Court.

The family that took in Hawkins was concerned about the threat and discussed kicking Hawkins out of their home, the documents state.

Those details were released Friday in a search warrant affidavit. Two other search warrants were made public Thursday.

Omaha police executed the most recently released search warrant on Hawkins' 1995 Jeep on Dec. 5 — the same day as the Von Maur shootings.

The affidavit, written Dec. 5 by Omaha Police Officer William Fell, shows for the first time that Hawkins may have expressed homicidal thoughts involving strangers before the rampage.

According to the affidavit, Kraig Kovac, 17, told officers of Hawkins' statements. Kovac is the son of Debora Maruca, who had let Hawkins, 19, live in a bedroom in their home for the past year.

A man who answered the phone Friday at Maruca's home in the Quail Creek neighborhood west of Bellevue said that what police wrote in the affidavit was not true.

"This allegation — I don't know where it's coming from," he said. The man declined to comment further and did not give his name.

Omaha police presented the affidavit — a written report explaining the grounds for a search warrant — to Douglas County District Judge Gregory Schatz, who then authorized investigators' search of Hawkins' vehicle.

Lt. Alex Hayes, the Omaha police detective directing the Westroads investigation day to day, said that in the days before Hawkins went to the mall, the teen talked about having "a standoff." Hayes said Hawkins had talked often about suicide and about shooting people in large places.

"At this point in the investigation, we can't say anyone specifically knew something they could have acted on," Hayes said.

According to the search warrant affidavit:

While Omaha police were investigating the shooting on Dec. 5, Kovac approached officers at Westroads Mall and said he had information about what had happened.

Kovac told Omaha Detective Doug Herout that Hawkins lived at his home with his mother, Debora Maruca, and older brother.

Kovac said he had seen some of Hawkins' writings that described committing suicide "in a place with a large number of people."

In the last couple of days, Hawkins also had been "acting strange" and spoke of "going out and shooting people in large places."

Scared, Kovac told his mother what he had seen and heard. The family began considering kicking Hawkins out of the home.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Blow up your TV

From the Omaha World-Herald:

Mark Dotson said his ex-wife was staying at his southwest Bellevue house with their two daughters when she invited Hawkins, her son, over for dinner. It was the night before the Westroads shootings.

Dotson, who was in Thailand on a vacation with a girlfriend, said Hawkins took his rifle from a closet when his ex-wife left with the girls to buy a birthday present at Wal-Mart. They were gone an hour, he said.

When Dotson's ex-wife, Maribel "Molly" Rodriguez, returned, Hawkins abruptly ended a session on the Internet, said goodbye and "plenty of I-love-yous" and left.

After the fact, she thought she could have read something into that," said Dotson of the mother. "She feels horrible."

Phone messages left with Rodriguez were not returned. A day after attending the private burial of her son, Rodriguez was in New York, her ex-husband said.

Part of an interview with Rodriguez by
ABC News
aired Wednesday might. Her account of the evening spent with her son matched Dotson's. She said she's "thinking now my life is over."

"I'm so sorry, so sorry," she said. "Please forgive me and my little Robert."

THE MOTHER OF the Murderer Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken is in New York, giving an exclusive interview to ABC News. She'll be on Good Morning America this AM.

Of course, ABC News and Diane Sawyer and Good Morning America are long gone from Omaha, having "moved on." Meanwhile, the eight victims of the Terrorist Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken -- at least not be spoken unless really necessary, like in the World-Herald story -- were buried in yesterday's-news anonymity and their families have been left to grieve far from the network spotlight.

The dead and buried, and the people who loved them, no longer are sexy, happening or now. We're all about the "now" now. If only the tales of many victims' heroism -- heroism that meant certain death -- had surfaced a couple of news cycles earlier. . . .

Oops, too late! Irrelevant to the national conversation, unlike the Oprah 'n' Obama Show.

BUT IF YOU HAVE an exclusive interview with the mama of the homicidal whack job . . . well, that's something! Diane can elicit gut-wrenching tales of a troubled, misunderstood youth who made some bad choices. Like committing mass murder in a crowded department store.

Tears! Mama will shed tears! Motherly tears from a heartbroken mom from a broken family with a broken kid who went berserk and broke a city's heart.

Now that's drama!

Not Drama (not to mention Not Worthy of National TV) would be the mundane story of husbands, wives, children, siblings and friends back there in the middle of Flyover Country, stuck in an overgrown cow town, wondering how to go on living after being gobsmacked by death.

After their loved ones' unfortunate encounter with the Maniac Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken.

Blow up your TV.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Rambo Right sucks

The last post on the heroism displayed by so many of last week's Westroads massacre victims reminded me of how many movement (as in bowel) conservatives so covered themselves in ignominy after the April horror at Virginia Tech.

Everybody should be armed like the Israeli Army. Kids today are infantilized. Those being shot up in Norris Hall ought to have gone after Sueng-Hui Cho like Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade.

Half a league, half a league, half a league onward!

Well, here in Omaha, out on the edge of the forbidding plains, non-infantilized grown-ups stood up to the madman. They all died. They had to have known that they were going to.

They did whatever they could, knowing they'd die, in the name of trying to buy more time for others to get away. They tried to distract the madman, Robbie Hawkins. They tried to talk down the madman, Robbie Hawkins. They stood their ground, trying to guide the authorities to the madman, Robbie Hawkins.

None of them stood a chance. All of them became martyrs.

I'M SURE John Derbyshire, Mark Steyn and all their ilk would be so proud. I'm sure their breasts are swelling as I type, all those Rambo Right-Wingers who think they have the right to demand the martyrdom of strangers in far away places.

All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

REMEMBER IN YOUR PRAYERS all those who died last week in my city. Remember especially those who so embodied Christ's Paschal sacrifice -- just in time for Christmas. Theirs was a sacrifice that only can be freely made, not offered up upon some ideologue's command.

No greater love

This is what, according to an article in the Omaha World-Herald, several of those gunned down at Omaha's Westroads Mall were doing at the moment they went to be with their God:
Firing away, the killer entered customer service, where he would end the carnage.

Hiding 15 feet from him was a 65-year-old grandfather and retired natural gas company manager, who suddenly emerged from the spot that concealed him and his wife and came into plain sight of the killer.

According to a family member's account given Sunday, John McDonald stood and confronted the 19-year-old gunman. It was a spontaneous act of courage that soon cost the Council Bluffs man his life, although it's possible that he helped spare more than a dozen people who were hiding nearby.

It appears that McDonald was one of the last of eight people killed by Robert Hawkins Wednesday at the Von Maur department store in the Westroads Mall.

Police are still investigating Omaha's worst single day of violence and have not determined the order in which Hawkins' victims fell.

McDonald was found in customer service, where Hawkins killed himself. An undisclosed number of rounds remained in his AK-47-style semiautomatic rifle.

Police released no new details of the rampage, but accounts Sunday from the families of McDonald and two other victims paint three portraits of courage in the face of chaos and terror.

The second involved Dianne Clavin Trent, the 53-year-old customer service worker who stayed on the phone with 911, describing the gunman until he took her life.

The third was customer Gary Scharf, 48, of Lincoln, who was on the first floor when he heard gunfire, ran up the escalator toward the carnage and shouted at Hawkins a floor above, "I called 911!"

All three were killed.

Omaha police declined Sunday to comment on the relatives' accounts. A spokesman for Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey said the scope of the crime, the number of detectives involved and the forensic evidence were too great at the moment to piece together exactly what happened and when.

Dr. Joe Shehan of Omaha, married to the only daughter of John and Kathy McDonald, said he bases his account on a detail that his mother-in-law shared in the car on their way home from the mall that day. It was a detail he forgot in the fog of grief and shock, and it is one Kathy McDonald left out of subsequent accounts until an Omaha police detective told the family what a hero they had in John McDonald:

That he left the hiding spot that concealed Kathy. That he left whatever protection that waiting room chair could offer as more than a dozen Von Maur employees huddled in fear in a back room that had no locking door and no other way out, should the gunman enter.

The police detective told McDonald's family that he stood and faced Hawkins. The gunman hadn't seen the McDonalds hiding when he entered, firing into customer service.

Hawkins struck four workers there and killed two, including Trent. She was telling a 911 dispatcher that "a young boy with glasses" was coming toward the counter.

"Oh my God!" she cried.

Her call ended with shots ringing in the background.

"Why she didn't drop that phone and run, we'll never know," said her sister, Kellie Schlecht.
AND WHAT was Robert A. Hawkins, 19 -- you know, the guy who wanted to "go out in style" -- doing right before he went to meet his Maker? He was gunning down unarmed, innocent people with a high-powered rifle in the Von Maur store at Westroads.

"Go out in style," indeed.

Cat's in the cradle . . . cat's in the cradle.

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
Or us and our sick little culture . . . as the case may be.

Requiescat in pace

From an
article in this afternoon's Omaha World Herald:

Sunshine peeked through winter's gray sky today, as mourners braved a bitter cold.

At churches in Omaha and Curtis, Neb., friends and family gathered to grieve the tragic loss of lives in Wednesday's Westroads Mall shooting.

Mothers cried for lost sons and daughters, children wept for parents and grandparents, and strangers came to pay their respects.

Omahans Janet D. Jorgensen, Dianne Clavin Trent and Gary Joy were laid to rest today, as were John V. McDonald of Council Bluffs and Gary Scharf of Lincoln.

"To lose a loved one is always hard," said the Rev. Harry Buse at the funeral for Trent this morning. "But to lose a loved one in such a violent and senseless way is particularly painful.

"This time, literally the whole world held you in their hearts. There were millions of hearts beating as one, sharing this huge loss."
DIANNE TRENT was a fellow parishioner at St. Leo's, and I stopped by her wake service there last night. The place was was as full as it usually is for a well-attended Mass.

Men and women wiped away tears as Dianne's eldest niece eulogized her murdered aunt, as the entire corps of nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews gathered behind the ambo in solidarity. By the time the eulogy was done, I was profoundly sad that I had never gotten to know Dianne, who I'm sure I had seen from time to time in the congregation at Mass.

Death. Sorrow. Regret.

Broken hearts and no second chances.

A GAPING HOLE in the fabric of life, a gash where a loved one ought to be. Where a loved one was just a few days ago.

All of this is what is left behind when a mentally ill, 19-year-old punk decides to "go out in style" amid a culture in love with violence and death -- a culture that turns out so much of what it loves most.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

This Grinch from Hell will not steal Christmas

Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year in Hell.

Among the deadly hosts, yuletide is a mocking reminder of that awful day when their archenemy came as a little child to save mankind from their worldly maw. It's the yearly reminder of the terrible day they saw the handwriting on the sulfurous wall.

Christmas is almost as bad as Easter, that annual commemoration of the day Satan and all his demons got the official and final word that the jig was up.

The Evil One hates Christmas. And even though he knows he can't beat it, the devil still dedicates the franchise to bloodying it any way he can.

THIS YEAR IN OMAHA, our annual commemoration of the Lord's birth is looking rather like a fight scene from Raging Bull.

Bloodied. Battered.

But not beaten.

Evil came to my city this week, and it used a broken, disturbed and violent 19-year-old to murder the innocent, shatter their loved ones, terrorize hundreds and batter the hearts, hopes and dreams of us all. Evil came to Westroads Mall, announcing its arrival with the report of an assault rifle -- a pow pow pow that cut through the Christmas music on a department store's public-address system.

What black irony that lay in the heart of darkness.
However, says Isaiah . . .
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
THIS PRESENT DARKNESS will not prevail. The light will shine, even if through our tears. In Omaha this year, the devil and his tortured lackey will not steal Christmas. They can break our hearts, but they can't take away our joy.

Not this Christmas, and not next Christmas. And not the next, or the next after that.

Christmas, and the One Whose birth it celebrates, are bigger than evil, and their joy negates the despair of a lunatic kid who sought to kill the world.

Robert A. Hawkins cannot have Christmas. Neither can the devil. To hell with them. And to Hell with at least one of the two.

THE HORRIBLE NEWS came this week just as I was getting ready to put together the music for this week's edition of
the Revolution 21 podcast. To say the least, it put a crimp in things, which is why the show is a day late -- I didn't know what I was going to do with the podcast.

I could do a tribute show much like ones I've done in the past but, then again, going to the well over and over with that format can get old fast. And horrible things worthy of commemoration just keep happening. I couldn't -- can't -- ignore the horror in my own back yard, but. . . .

What sheer awfulness and irony that such a massacre would happen amid a season of great joy and good cheer. Really and truly, it has been almost too much to bear this week. And finally, this one thought hit me. Hard.

They cannot have Christmas.

They will not take the joy of Christmas from us. Not now. Not in Omaha.


THUS, Revolution 21 -- right now -- is repeating last year's Christmas program, replete with the joy of a Christmas I experienced long ago and far away. Where I once again am a child, and where loved ones long gone are alive again.

My prayer is that my yuletide reminiscence will bring on a few happy ones of your own. Sometimes, we find that our joy can become hidden amid the detritus of life in this vail of tears. But it's there; it just takes a little digging to get to it.

Christ is born in Bethlehem . . . no man, no principality, no power can undo that. Alleluia! There will be Christmas in Omaha, and we will rejoice in it.

And the devil -- he who prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls -- can just go to Hell.

Merry Christmas, y'all.

Culture. Of. Death. Literally.

I wish I could say I was shocked.

But what do you expect from a culture so in love with death -- from abortion to euthanasia to capital punishment to virtual murder sprees via video game . . . to flesh-and-blood mass murder by real-life terrorists on college campuses and in shopping malls bedecked in red-and-green Christmas cheer.

it's come to this, as reported by The Daily Collegian at Penn State:
All it took were a couple of pictures posted on the Internet. Mere hours after a Virginia television station reported that Penn State students had uploaded pictures of Halloween partygoers dressing as Virginia Tech shooting victims, criticism exploded from both campuses, with one group denouncing the costumes reaching 4,100 members as of 2 a.m. this morning.

The only publicly accessible picture, uploaded after Halloween, shows a woman wearing an orange Virginia Tech T-shirt smeared with blood and a bullet wound, posing jauntily. According to television station WSLS in Roanoke, Va., several other pictures showed a similarly attired man.

For Virginia Tech students still shaken by a tragedy not yet a year old, the pictures are a slap in the face from students of a university they once lauded for its sensitivity and compassion in the wake of their loss.

University spokesman Bill Mahon, who released a statement to the Blacksburg, Va. campus, said he was shocked by the pictures.

"I certainly find it appalling, as most Penn Staters would find it appalling," he said. He said he believes it happened "off campus, in a private party."

Caitlin Beckett, a sophomore majoring in finance at Virginia Tech, agreed. Learning of the pictures several hours before she was interviewed, she said it was too painful to join the group protesting against it. Her friend, Mary Read, then 19, died in the shootings.

"I just didn't want to think about it -- it's just kind of sickening," she said. "You would think that people, after what happened, would have more respect than that ... even if it happened after five years, it wouldn't be OK."

Virginia Tech freshman Krista Silano wasn't a student at the university when Cho Seung Hui shot and killed 32 students last April, but she remembers the wave of loss and grief that struck the town.

She attended a memorial service with her high school lacrosse team.

"It's going to affect everyone who was affected or even just goes here," she said. "I didn't think that would ever happen from any community. I didn't think anyone would make light of the subject."
TWO DAYS AGO, eight people who didn't deserve it -- as if anyone does -- got blown away by a madman in a shopping mall a mile from where I sit. A woman who has done my wife's hair for probably 15 years, and who has become a friend of hers over those years, hid in the women's room on the third floor of the Von Maur store as Robert Hawkins slaughtered people mere yards away.

This woman helped to fashion a tourniquet out of a man's necktie to stanch the blood flowing from his shot-up arm.

I have no sympathy for the "shock value" antics from a bunch of a**holes at Penn State University.

BY GOD'S GRACE, they laughingly apply fake bullet holes to their own torsos and heads, and coat their bodies with phony blood. By God's grace, they were not in Von Maur at Westroads Mall, nor were they in Norris Hall at Virginia Tech.

God is holy and merciful. I am neither. If it were left up to my grace. . . .

Friday, December 07, 2007

Demon: Hunter

This is what the devil looks like. At least it's what he looked like Wednesday afternoon.

WE GET THIS VIEW from Von Maur department store surveillance video, following the release of still photos from those recordings by Omaha police. In those stills, we see that Satan is a 19-year-old kid

(or is he 20, given the conflicting age reports?), more than a little crazy, and not exactly a natty dresser.

We also sees that Satan's preferred weapon against the humanity he so hates is an old semiautomatic rifle. To clarify, the Russian firearm was the devil's favored weapon two days ago. He likes to switch around and experiment a lot, depending on the situation.

The devil looks like a real loser. Then again, Satan is a real loser -- as we shall see in the fullness of time.

This is not a popular viewpoint in Therapeutic America, where people no longer commit evil, they merely make mistakes. Like Robert A. Hawkins walked into Von Maur with that rifle hidden under his sweats, got in the elevator, rode to the third floor and misguidedly gunned down eight innocent people before making the poor choice of blowing his own brains out. There is little doubt that Robbie Hawkins was a deeply disturbed young man, driven by faulty brain chemistry, inadequate socialization or God-knows-what to make one "poor choice" after another during the course of his tormented time on Earth.

Likewise, there is little doubt that young Mr. Hawkins, future terrorist and mass murderer, was failed by a lot of people and institutions along the way. While some mentally ill people may well be born a taco shy of a combination plate, I think it takes a village to take a lunatic and turn him into a mass murderer.

IT TAKES the hard work of "powers and principalities," too. The trouble with Therapeutic America is it doesn't deal so well with the mystery of evil. That enigmatic force that can take a disturbed young doper and dropout and turn him into a murderous ball of resentment, hatred and despair.

One capable of walking into Westroads Mall and ending the hopes, dreams, passions and lives of eight people who never did a thing to the man who hunted them like game in the woods.
A society that seeks to assign blame for a killer's actions to everyone and everything but the killer himself ironically is unable to deal with the source and summit of horrors like that in Omaha this week: The devil, who really did make Robbie Hawkins do it.

If I understand how things like this work -- which I think I do -- Hawkins' extreme mental and emotional instability would be just the chink in a person's armor that the devil really
can exploit . . . in this case, to spectacular effect. For instance, the devil probably had a hand in handing Robbie Hawkins his first joint. And his first beer.

SATAN PROBABLY WORKED a little overtime to get him into the house of a woman alleged to have tolerated impressive levels of toking and boozing by the teens under her roof. I know Satan and his junior demons have put in significant overtime in turning the United States into a nation awash in drugs, illicit sex, rampant violence (and the adoration thereof) and materialism so pervasive that it not only warps how we live, but also who we are. It wasn't for nothing that Jesus warned us that a camel can pass through the eye of a needle more easily that a rich man can get into Heaven.

Living in America is a damned hard spiritual slog for Average Joes like you and me. Imagine what it became for a broken vessel like Robbie Hawkins.
Well, none of us has to imagine anymore, do we?

Hawkins had help in becoming the monster on the nightly news, that is true. He had help from the devil in us, as well as the devil on his shoulder. This is an assertion that, to modern ears, sounds positively medieval. It flies in the face of modern science, and it is an affront to our Western reluctance to deal with all that religious s***.

Science can explain brain chemistry, more or less. Science, however, can't unravel the mystery of the evil that descended upon Westroads Mall on Wednesday. That takes a medieval mindset.

One that knows about the devil whispering words of hate to a whacked-out kid. One that knows that during Omaha's blackest hour, a troubled soul surrendered itself to the prince of darkness and became one with Death. One with the devil.

It takes a worldview medieval enough to know that when Satan figured he'd gotten all the due he was going to get on the third floor of Von Maur, he climbed back out and back up onto Robbie Hawkins' shoulder. And then he whispered in Robbie's ear:

"Do it, faggot. Do eeeeet."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

'Dave . . . my mind is going. I can feel it.'

As was obvious to anyone who tried to log into the Omaha World-Herald's website,, during Wednesday's chaos in the Big O, the newspaper was having itself some HAL 9000 problems.

No word yet on casualties at 14th and Douglas.

media watch blog of the alternative City Weekly took keen notice as well, linking to a West Coast media exec's scathing blog entry about
The problems the Omaha World-Herald's online portal,, has had in handling large amounts of visitor traffic have been well documented. But now, more than just Nebraskans are taking notice.

"Reflections of a Newsosaur" is a blog written by Silicon Valley CEO Alan D. Mutter. The former city editor of the Chicago Sun-Times later became the second-in-command editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Today, he is a managing partner of Tapit Partners, a two-man, think-tank that helps business owners create successful companies.

In a post titled, "Flat-footed in Omaha," Mutter takes the paper to task for problems he says were not technical, but editorial.

"The poor coverage evidently was caused by a lack of contingency planning on the part of editors, web producers, reporters, photographers and all the other people who are responsible for rapidly, thoughtfully and accurately gathering the information and visual assets necessary to tell a story like this in the age of multimedia."
FOLLOW THE LINK if you have a strong stomach, because the keelhauling to which Mutter subjects the hometown rag would make even Dick Cheney squeamish.

Thing is, the World-Herald didn't need no Blue State techno guru to hit it with the painfully obvious.
I already did.

Back in May.

IT'S NOT THAT I'm comfortable with blowing my own horn -- or even particularly looking to do so. It's more a plea for recognition that maybe one or two of us here in Flyover Country might have a couple of brain cells to rub together, too.

Yep, we do obvious as well as anybody.

Uh huh.

Teen-age Baghdad?

In the aftermath of Wednesday's mall massacre in Omaha, some things are starting to emerge from the haze of chaos and the numbness of shock.

FOR EXAMPLE, it's really starting to look like something is seriously not right in Robert Hawkins' "posse." The problem, however, in what seems to be a Bellevue, Neb., feedback loop of whack is not that there are kids out there who have issues.

The problem would appear to be that there are kids out there with issues immersed in an absolutely pathological culture -- one, as I said earlier, obsessed with all the wrong things. Not even a day after Hawkins massacred eight people, then himself, at the Von Maur at Westroads Mall, another one of his circle has been arrested on felony counts.

a story by Jason Kuiper in the Omaha World-Herald:

A 17-year-old Bellevue boy was arrested after being accused of threatening a girl whom he said made comments relating to Wednesday's fatal shootings at Von Maur.

David S. Horvath, of 3016 JoAnn Ave. in Bellevue, was taken into custody Thursday afternoon and brought to the Sarpy County Juvenile Justice Center.

Bellevue Police Chief John Stacey said officers went to Horvath's house Thursday to investigate a girl's report that Horvath threatened her for making disparaging remarks about his close friend, Robert Hawkins. Officials say Hawkins shot and killed eight people at Von Maur at the Westroads Mall on Wednesday afternoon before killing himself.

Stacey said officers arrested Horvath on suspicion of making felony terroristic threats. The officers also confiscated two shotguns and a rifle from the house, he said.
THERE IS SOMETHING of a striking comparison to be made in all this. If what Robbie Hawkins did Wednesday is fundamentally no different from what a jihadi terrorist does, then how is what his buddy is alleged to have done much different from what Iraqi sectarian militias do?

Just asking the uncomfortable questions, here.

It's terrorism, is what it is

What's the difference between Robert A. Hawkins and an al Qaida terrorist?

Nothing. Except, perhaps, that the al Qaida terrorist has access to better technology for even more efficient slaughter than can come from the barrel of an old Russian assault rifle.

Perhaps the difference is that -- unlike the al Qaida bigs who direct the foot soldiers of international terror -- Bellevue, Nebraska's high-school dropout and homegrown suicide shooter just was too damned stupid to graduate to suicide bomber. After all, you have to know how to wire up a bomb vest and have the scratch to buy the TNT or plastique.

And it's hard to come up with that kind of money when you can't even hold down a job at McDonald's. So stealing Daddy's rifle it was.

But why does a mass murderer -- an all-American Terrorist Without a Cause -- do it?

Michael Kelly looks for an answer in this morning's Omaha World-Herald:
But why at all? Why do some become mass killers?

"More often than not," [James Alan Fox, criminal justice professor at Boston's Northeastern University] said, "they see themselves as victims of injustice. They seek vengeance against people they blame.

"They tend to be loners and losers, people who failed at work or at home. They externalize blame. A lot of us, when things go wrong, blame ourselves - whereas these individuals always blame someone else."

Sometimes, he said, it starts with a specific grudge - a job or relationship gone bad, and a desire to get even. Along the way, the shooter may kill others.

They tend to use guns because guns create distance. "It's a lot easier to stand back, pull a trigger and shoot people without having any contact with them."
AND MAYBE an explosive suicide vest was just too icky for a depressed, demented American youth who wanted to "go out in style."

Robert A. Hawkins was a terrorist just as much as is Osama bin Laden. Osama's a big leaguer;
Robbie Hawkins was a rookie-league screwball pitcher. How do you like your newfound fame, kid?

I can appreciate that Hawkins was a sad, tormented and pathological young adult. I can. So were Hank Williams and Janis Joplin, but they still managed to leave behind much beauty in this world and killed no one but, ultimately, themselves.

And let's not forget Vincent van Gogh.

Robbie Hawkins' legacy is death, panic, mayhem, gore and heartbreak. Thousands of years of human tradition and theology tell us mayhem and death are the province of the Evil One, and modern psychology can offer no treatment -- no effective prophylactic -- for the demonic.

Robert A. Hawkins, age 20, was a sick young man. A sick young man who listened to the devil inside. A sick young man for whom self-murder just wasn't good enough.

No, he had to take eight others with him on his way out.

I grieve for the hell Robbie Hawkins' life became, just as I weep over the hell on earth he brought to innocent Christmas shoppers and salespeople. I will not, however, make excuses for what he did -- what he did to eight fellow humans, what he did to their families and friends, what he did to this city.

This city . . . Omaha. My home.

With great difficulty, I pray that God has more mercy on Robbie Hawkins' tormented soul than Robbie Hawkins had on a bunch of innocent people he knew not from Adam. But that doesn't change what Hawkins decided to become Wednesday afternoon -- a terrorist. Albeit one without a clue.

WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY that has fetishized sex, violence, death and materialism. None of the above can fill the void that haunts our being. None of the above can give adequate meaning to young lives like the one Robert A. Hawkins threw away in that Omaha shopping mall.

Americans are quick to mock those young, Islamic terrorists who embrace suicide, murder and carnage for the greater glory of Allah -- and the chance to screw themselves silly in Paradise with 72 hot virgins.

But at least they kill -- and die -- for something, no matter how warped.

For what did Robbie Hawkins -- and all his youthful predecessors like Harris,
Klebold and Cho -- kill . . . and die?

For what?

No, it wasn't a bad dream

Alone in the night

Terrors, and other dark thoughts, come in the night.

They lurk in the shadows, waiting for the witching hour, consolidating their dark forces for the assault on the lonely human soul. Yes, terrors come in the night.

WEDNESDAY, terror also came in the day to Omaha, my home -- to this stolid yet quirky city on the Missouri River. A tormented, 20-year-old loser screwed up one time too many, then listened yet again to the demon on his shoulder, the one telling him he was human excrement and to do something about it.

The Omaha World-Herald today
quotes what that devil was whispering in Robbie Hawkins' ear, which he faithfully copied onto his suicide note: "I'm a piece of shit, but I'm going to be famous now."

Infamous, actually.

He took his father's old Russian SKS semiautomatic assault rifle. He took a couple of clips and some ammo, too. He taped the clips together, so he could reload in the blink of an eye.

Then he drove his used Jeep Cherokee to Westroads Mall and shot up the Von Maur department store. He blew away eight innocent human beings, then he blew himself to Kingdom Come.

Or somewhere.

BUT THIS POST isn't about young Mr. Hawkins and his Final Solution to a life gone south. This post is about the terrors that come in the dark of the night to a mostly tranquil city of 425,000, where the big news a couple of days ago was the Nebraska Cornhuskers' new football coach.

Well, that was the big news, until. . . .

Nebraska has seen nothing like this since the days of Charles Starkweather, who 50 years ago set out on a killing spree so notorious that it inspired Bruce Springsteen to write an entire gothic, folk-rock masterpiece of an album. But it took Starkweather a whole month to do what he did.

Omaha is reeling as I write this in the wee, dark hours. Christmas trees stand as blinking affronts to bereft families in houses that are one person emptier than they should be.

Spouses are dead. Friends are gone. Children are orphans now, in the black of this December night.

Terrors descend on a bereft, shell-shocked city. And we need someone to talk to. We need the light of a candle -- figurative, literal, metaphorical . . . I really don't give a good g**damn -- because we are just too bloody tired, and heartbroken, to curse the darkness anymore.

BACK IN THE DAY, I remember when one (or more) local radio stations would stand in the gap, helping beat back the terrors for a sleepless city. A city that dares not sleep for fear of what it might dream.

Oldsters like myself remember reassuring voices in the night -- friends as close as the radio on the night table. They were there, in the air, soothing our frayed nerves with good music.

They were there, taking calls from the wide-awake and brokenhearted (and even letting some of us talk it all out over the air and into the ether) when tragedy visited in bygone days.

They. Were. There.

When. We. Needed. Them.

The voices in the night were there when madmen shot the Kennedys.

They were there when a madman shot Martin.

They were there when Elvis died, and when a nut named Chapman killed John Lennon.

They were there through all manner of local calamities, storms and crises. But that was then, in a land called Back in the Day.

TONIGHT, for some unfathomable reason, I turned on the radio. On one of our public stations, the news . . . from the BBC. I switched the wireless to AM and tuned to
KFAB, the blowtorch of the Midwest -- the station generations of Omahans listened to to see if the morning's snow canceled the day's classes . . . back in the day.

I remember back in 1988, when Omaha had been lashed by a line of hellacious storms, including at least one tornado. Much of the city was dark. The wife and I were struggling to salvage the contents of our fridge.

Our light came from wax, a wick and a flame, and our link to the world was a battery radio. It was tuned to 1110 AM. The DJ was informative, the music was middle-of-the-road, and the turntables ran fast . . . then slow . . . then fast . . . then slow, for the emergency generator was a bit hinky.

In these small hours, I sit here trying to make sense of the madness that came to my city Wednesday. And when I tuned to dependable ol' KFAB -- now just another brick in the Clear Channel wall of suck -- hoping against hope to hear a friendly voice in the night, I heard. . . .


THE TRANSMITTER was on, but nobody was home. Not even George Noory, who usually at that hour is chasing the spacemen on Coast to Coast A.M. Nope, at 1:07 a.m., there was complete dead air.

And complete dead air at 1:17. And 1:27. And 1:37, except for the ID and commercials that ran right on schedule at 1:32.

We're on our own. It's just us . . . and those terrors in the night.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

If you're checking in from somewhere else . . .

Please pray for my city. This is our worst hour, and it has come just in time to mock a season of joy.

It would seem that in this place -- built up a century and a half ago from the hills on a harsh and unforgiving northern prairie -- the joy of our Savior's coming and the horror of his execution on the cross will be united rather vividly this year.

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary

Here's what we pray. Here's what it means.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.

THE PRAYER to St. Michael the Archangel used to be recited after every Mass in the Catholic Church. It still is in some places, and we often take its words for granted.

Until. . . .

I don't know that we often grasp what that means -- or, at least, what it can mean -- when we routinely recite "be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil" or
". . . Satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls."

Today, in Omaha at Westroads Mall, Satan and all the evil spirits were on the prowl. It is not a pretty picture we receive from
the Omaha World-Herald story today:
Renee Toney was working in the gift wrap area behind the customer service counter when the gunman came off a third-floor elevator and began firing shots into the ceiling.

"He was moving very fast," she said. The shots "were very, very fast, I would say closer to 30 (shots) in all."

A supervisor called for everyone to go into a stockroom behind the customer service area, and she rushed there, the others just feet behind her.

But she was the only one of her immediate co-workers to make it to the stockroom.

"None of them made it out," Toney said. "I was up front, and everybody except me was shot. It's a blur. I don't even know how I got to the stockroom. I was the closest one to the stockroom. Within seconds, they were shot right behind me."

A supervisor later told Toney that the man had said, "Open the safe." One of the employees moved to open the safe, Toney said. "She never made it to the safe. He shot her before she made it."

When police later arrived and ushered Toney out, she said she saw blood all over the floor and as many as six bodies, some on top of each other.

Mickey Vickroy, who was wrapping gifts at customer service but out of sight of the service counter, said she heard gunshots and some yell, "Gun!"

About a dozen customer service employees ran back into a storage area.

Roxanne Philip, another customer service worker, said the gunshots were so close that it sounded like they were being fired right next to her. She said she took cover and was scared "because I thought I would be next."

Philip said she never saw the shooter, but as she left the customer service area after police arrived, she saw that a woman on the other side of the customer service counter had been shot and appeared to be dead. She said she thought her boss had been shot because she heard him moaning.

Chuck Wright, a Von Maur employee, said a co-worker who also worked in customer service described hearing the shooting break out and people running. The co-worker saw what appeared to be a customer who had been shot and heard a co-worker in customer service yelling for help.

Someone yelled, "Hold on, Fred, we'll get to you."

Another co-worker of Wright's described standing on the second floor near the escalator and looking up toward the commotion. She then saw a man with a gun lean over a third-floor railing. He then shot a man standing next to her in the head.
LET US PRAY. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. . . .

50 years later: Just a meanness in this world

From the Omaha World-Herald:

The 19-year-old shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His body was found on the third floor of the Von Maur at Westroads Mall.

It was the deadliest shooting spree in Nebraska since Charles Starkweather's 1958 rampage.

DID YOU CATCH THAT? "It was the deadliest shooting spree in Nebraska since Charles Starkweather's 1958 rampage."

This month and next mark the 50th anniversary of Starkweather's killing spree across Nebraska and Wyoming, spanning December 1957 and January 1958.

I don't know what, if anything, that means. It's eerie as hell, though.

They declared me unfit to live said into that great void my soul'd be hurled
They wanted to know why I did what I did
Well sir I guess there's just a meanness in this world

-- From "Nebraska,"
Bruce Springsteen, 1982,
based on Starkweather

Death . . . the final solution

A troubled 19-year-old had some scrapes with The Man, some of the final bad moves of his tortured time on Earth. Then he got fired from Mickey D's.

THAT, APPARENTLY, turned out to be the last straw for the teen authorities identified as Robert A. Hawkins -- male, Caucasian, of Bellevue, Neb. KETV, Channel 7, has the details:
Hawkins, 19, had been arrested on a couple of misdemeanors in November and was due in court this month. One charge included minor in possession of alcohol. He was arrested on Nov. 24.

Sarpy County deputies said they are getting a warrant to search Hawkins' home in the Quail Creek neighborhood in Bellevue.

The woman who owns that house at 4302 McCartey Drive, who only gave her first name of Debra, said Hawkins had a lot of emotional instability. She said she thought he was turning things around. She said he had just learned that he was fired from McDonald's.

Debra said Hawkins was coming out of his room Wednesday morning when she last saw him.

"He said he'd gotten fired and was pretty upset and said, 'This is the only way,' and we tried to talk to him," Debra said. "He was just a very troubled -- I had no idea that he was this troubled. I don't know if it was because he got fired from McDonald's."

Debra said she saw Hawkins with a gun last night and thought he and her sons were going hunting, which they did quite often.

At 4:30 p.m., Rollie Yost, in the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office, said shortly after the shooting, Hawkins' mother walked into its office with a note that "could be interpreted as suicidal."

Yost said Sarpy County is working with Omaha police.

A friend of Hawkins, Shawn, told KETV NewsWatch 7 said Hawkins had been on antidepressants. He was staying with friends in Quail Creek, the friend said, and he said Hawkins had recently begun bouncing from job to job and making "some bad judgment calls." Shawn said he was shocked to hear it was the man he calls "Robbie." Shawn said he had heard through the grapevine on Wednesday that Robbie was suicidal.

Shawn said he last saw Hawkins a few months ago.

A user e-mailed this:

"I went to school for seven years with (Hawkins) and he seemed to be a suicidal kid. During school, he would talk about killing or something along those lines."
WAS IT HAYWIRE brain chemistry, or was it a devil on his shoulder telling Robert A. Hawkins "Kill, kill, kill"?

Does it even matter? Whatever the source of the madness, the result was pure evil. The fires of Hell billowing up to Earth and into our lives.

Innocent lives snuffed out as quickly as rifle rounds could tear through flesh and bone. Death was the final solution for Hawkins, and he decided it would be the final solution for eight other Omahans he didn't know from Adam.

It seems to me that death has become our No. 1 solution for everything today.

Even for "an awesome kid," as related just now by one of his friends to a TV reporter keeping vigil outside the house where Hawkins crashed during his last days.

The friend found out this afternoon that his buddy had become Death, destroyer of worlds. TV viewers learned that this caused the lad to be "beat up about it for a while."

But then, in the span of a few hours, came the realization that "Life goes on, and I'll get through it."

Mass murder by your good bud. No biggie.

I REMEMBER reading Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness in ninth grade, it must have been. It comes back to me in times like these, all the more as our society becomes all the more like
"The horror":
"Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn't touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror--of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision--he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:

"`The horror! The horror!'

"I blew the candle out and left the cabin. The pilgrims were dining in the mess-room, and I took my place opposite the manager, who lifted his eyes to give me a questioning glance, which I successfully ignored. He leaned back, serene, with that peculiar smile of his sealing the unexpressed depths of his meanness. A continuous shower of small flies streamed upon the lamp, upon the cloth, upon our hands and faces. Suddenly the manager's boy put his insolent black head in the doorway, and said in a tone of scathing contempt:

"`Mistah Kurtz--he dead.'


"`His end,' said I, with dull anger stirring in me, `was in every way worthy of his life.'

"`And I was not with him,' she murmured. My anger subsided before a feeling of infinite pity.

"`Everything that could be done --' I mumbled.

"`Ah, but I believed in him more than any one on earth--more than his own mother, more than -- himself. He needed me! Me! I would have treasured every sigh, every word, every sign, every glance.'

"I felt like a chill grip on my chest. `Don't,' I said, in a muffled voice.

"`Forgive me. I--I have mourned so long in silence--in silence. . . . You were with him -- to the last? I think of his loneliness. Nobody near to understand him as I would have understood. Perhaps no one to hear. . . .'

"`To the very end,' I said, shakily. `I heard his very last words. . . .' I stopped in a fright.

"`Repeat them,' she murmured in a heart-broken tone. `I want--I want -- something -- something -- to -- to live with.'

"I was on the point of crying at her, `Don't you hear them?' The dusk was repeating them in a persistent whisper all around us, in a whisper that seemed to swell menacingly like the first whisper of a rising wind. `The horror! The horror!'

"`His last word -- to live with,' she insisted. `Don't you understand I loved him -- I loved him -- I loved him!'

"I pulled myself together and spoke slowly.

"`The last word he pronounced was -- your name.'"

Mental illness, or demons, or just plain garden-variety despair, or just plain meanness all have been constants in the human experience. What is relatively new is efficient means for maximum annihilation of those around us, as well as the mainstreaming of maximum annihilation as a way of getting our "15 minutes of fame" on our way out of this vail of tears.

The horror. Our horror.