Thursday, February 18, 2010

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World"

Austin had a scare today.  There was another action by a seriously disturbed individual proving once again that we live in "a mad, mad, mad world". 

This morning, a man who lived in nearby Round Rock, TX, set fire to his own house, went to the local airport, got into his single-engine plane, and flew directly into a 7-story building, which contained IRS offices.  The man is presumed to have died in the crash.  Although several were injured, miraculously, he did not manage to kill any other people in the process, although there is one person reported missing. 

Its reported that he was furious with the IRS.  He had a website that talked about all his problems that led him to decide this was the thing to do. 

The incident occurred about 12 mi. from my house in a building I pass by several times a week.  Several people witnessed the crash and reported that it "looked like 9/11."  Unsurprisingly, the first response was to think it was a terrorist act.   According to the media, fighter jets were deployed to Austin as a precaution.  Fortunately, before a full scale panic could erupt, the identity and history of the pilot became known....not a terrorist, just a man with big problems.

Of course there was huge media coverage, and the gawkers tied up traffic for hours.  Although there was a big fire and a great deal of damage to the building, the bulk of the building is still standing. 

All in all, an event that could have been so much more tragic, turned out to be something much less.

It was shocking and frightening to see.  Is this our future?  Revenge actions by a mentally ill person with an airplane as the weapon of choice??  Thinking back to 9/11, I remember watching with horror as the magnitude of what was happening grew and grew over the course of that day. 

I still don't understand how the terrorists who flew those planes on that day could be convinced that flying into a building filled with basically innocent people was in any way justified.  But I realize that almost any act by terrorists and/or religious fanatics doesn't stand up to any sort of reasoning I would ever understand. 

But today was NOT the act of a terrorist.  I don't believe he was anything but a man who had serious mental problems and must have had them for some time.   Waking up this morning and suddenly deciding, "hmmm, think I'll go fly into a building today" doesn't seem real likely.   

My question is why can't anyone see before a tragic event that a person is acting strangely enough to realize that he/she might be a danger to himself and others??  This kind of thing happens over and over and over again.  All of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, a person goes berserk and flies into a building, or starts shooting colleagues in a faculty meeting; or inflicts great harm to her own child or children; or brings a gun to school and uses it indiscriminately on the other students and teachers, or an army  doctor goes on a rampage and kills fellow soldiers.  These are in no way to be considered the action of a sane human being.  Why is everyone always so surprised??? 

Inevitably, neighbors, friends, family, colleagues, almost uniformly. state afterward some variation of:  "He was the last  person you would expect to do something like this; or  he was quiet, a loner, troubled, kept to himself, etc. etc.;  or I can't believe he (or she) did this."  Why is everyone always so surprised???  These people usually have families, bosses, children, friends.  Why does no one ever spot that someone has gone over the edge and is no longer a rational, sane, functional person.  There is help out there for the mentally ill.  There are police officers who might be able to prevent or divert the person from completing his horrible plan.  There are famiy members, ministers, counselors who could talk to them and get them the attention they need.  There are hospitals where a person can be involuntarily committed to prevent them and others from harm.   None of that ever seems to happen before tragedy strikes....and afterward, the evidence seems so clear that help was seriously needed but no one did anything!

Well, we've been getting a series of wake-up calls for years that just keep being ignored.  What does it take before we realize that there are more of these disturbed people out there.  What does it take to intervene?   I don't know about you, but I hope that I am never so oblivious, so cowardly, so self-involved that I ignore the trouble signs in someone I know.  So, what does it take?  Seriously, what does it take?  Somebody flying into your house?


  1. I think it's the people closest to him who were most likely to see warning signs. And if they did see the signs, they may have either tried to ignore them, or not wanted to "turn him in." It's sad. I hope, as you said, I'd see the signs, and do something about it.

  2. I was wondering how close you were to that building and hoping neither you nor anyone you knew was impacted. I have to say, though, that anyone who takes our his/her personal problems on anonymous people with no regard for who is killed or hurt is a "terrorist" in my book. Yes, he had problems that should have been dealt with. But no matter what his problems were, he knew it was wrong to try to kill others and he had no qualms about doing it. I feel sorry for his family - they will have to live with this for the rest of their lives.

    Glad you're all safe.

  3. Yes, we are all fine, thank you for asking! And I agree, his family will suffer a long time over this. Its a no-win situation all the way around!

  4. I guess he rolled that quote of "death and taxes" into one neat package....

  5. Mellodee, how horrible that this was so close to you. When I saw those pictures of that building, my mind instantly flashed back to 9-11. I recalled that when 9-11 happened, everyone's first thought (including mine) was that a plane had crashed accidentally. Now, the first thing we think is "terrorist". When we learn that it was a lone man, acting out of anger, we are as shocked as we were by the terrorist act! It is so frightening to realize that such normal-acting people walk among us with this much anger built up inside. laurie

  6. Why isn't this man considered a terrorist? I consider anyone a terrorist who brings fear to people on purpose. It doesn't matter what skin color or nationality... if someone, even an American intentionally flies a plane into a building, they are a terrorist. Well, that's my opinion.


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