Today in the newspaper of the town in which I work, I saw that the police are looking for two men suspected of murdering three people last week. When the murders happened, I waited with bated breath to see if I knew the victims. It wouldn’t have been the first time, by a long shot. Fuzzy images of another funeral for a young man lurked in the back of my head, and I will admit to feeling relief that I didn’t know them. I felt shock and no small measure of heartache, then, this morning when I saw that one of the suspects in the case was my student, a part of my Baile Folklorico group about twelve years ago.
Nicolas was not noticeably angry, at that time. On the contrary, he was a peaceful guy who always had a ready smile. He lived in a decrepit trailer in a run-down mobile home park with quite a few family members. Now that I think about it, they seemed to be kind of a jumbled family group. His closest friend was his cousin, and they lived together. I’m not sure which of their parents they lived with. In subsequent years we had more family members come through our classes. They always lived in poor housing, either at the Vin-Boy trailer park or the migrant worker camp in East Linda.
I ‘ll always wonder if I could have done anything that might have changed the outcome for Nicolas. What can we possibly do beyond the reach of our classrooms? Life is so much bigger, so much more demanding than we can touch, no matter how much we give. Did he become angry and violent? Did he just get caught up in something that escalated faster than he could get away from it? They say he wasn’t in a gang, but that doesn’t really matter, in the big picture. Lots of lives are going to be that much more turbulent as the ripples spread. It makes my heart hurt.