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"I don't think there's ever closure. I think whoever came up with that concept is an imbecile."
June 2, 2011 2:10 PM   Subscribe

The Survivor. "When your family is murdered, and the home you had made together is destroyed, and you yourself are beaten and left for dead — as happened to Bill Petit on the morning of July 23, 2007 — it may as well be the end of the world. It is hard to see how a man survives the end of the world. The basics of life — waking up, walking, talking — become alien tasks, and almost impossibly heavy, as you are more dead than alive. Just how does a man go about surviving such a thing? How does a man go on? ... Why does one man come undone while the next finds a way to make it through?" posted by zarq (60 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 


Wikipedia page, to jump to the facts.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:27 PM on June 2, 2011


Oh god, I couldn't even finish reading this. I would have cried at work.

Well-written.
posted by chatongriffes at 2:36 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I stumbled on the story when it first broke, because one of the daughters was an incoming freshman at my alma mater, and I happened to decide to check the school's newspaper that day. I don't know if I can read the Esquire piece now. Or ever. I mostly couldn't finish the articles about the trial.
posted by rtha at 2:48 PM on June 2, 2011


Its really really really hard for me to oppose the death penalty when I hear stories like this.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:52 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


This kind of thing is my very, very worst personal nightmare. I have a wife and two daughters. I had to skim this piece. There is no way I could have handled reading it in detail.
posted by PsychoTherapist at 3:02 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


rtha: "I stumbled on the story when it first broke, because one of the daughters was an incoming freshman at my alma mater, and I happened to decide to check the school's newspaper that day. I don't know if I can read the Esquire piece now. Or ever. I mostly couldn't finish the articles about the trial."

Speaking as a someone with a couple of young children, it was an emotionally wrenching read. Mr. Petit's living my worst nightmare.
posted by zarq at 3:04 PM on June 2, 2011


I was doing fine until I got to this passage:

After the meeting, Ron and Hanna and a few others hang out and talk. Eventually, Petit goes up to his room. Books and papers and albums of family photographs cover most of the queen-size bed — Bill sleeps at the edge of the mattress.

that was 5 minutes ago and I still can't stop crying for long enough to be able to read the screen through the blurriness, which makes me think that might be a sign for me to stop trying.
posted by stagewhisper at 3:14 PM on June 2, 2011


God damn, that was hard to read. I can't believe something in Esquire made me cry.
posted by hades at 3:15 PM on June 2, 2011


Jesus Christ. As said, that was a hard read, it has stopped me in my tracks and I have a client meeting in half an hour.
posted by maxwelton at 3:21 PM on June 2, 2011


What a terrible story. The mind boggles. I can distantly imagine being a person who decides that home invasion and robbery is a good idea. But I just can't get to the place of being someone who moves from there to "Now let's rape this child and torture and murder this woman and her daughters!" in the space of a few hours. How does that happen to someone? How does that happen to men with daughters of their own?

The actual article is beautifully, beautifully written. I cried. A lot. Ryan D'Agostino did justice to this family.

The repeated notes of Hayes and Komisarjevsky somehow being unable to believe that a suburban family didn't have piles of cash laying around is strange and troubling in a way I can't quite explain. Where do you get that idea?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:29 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I feel like I should have put a warning on the article. I apologize if it caught anyone off-guard.
posted by zarq at 3:33 PM on June 2, 2011


Apparently this case is one main reason Connecticut didn't repeal its death penalty.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:41 PM on June 2, 2011


I thought I wouldn't be able to make it through the article, but I couldn't put it down. The horror just appears in brief flashes. Great writing.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:43 PM on June 2, 2011


It's a terrible, gut-wrenching article, and it's just stupefying that anyone would do such a thing. Just horrible.

However, I will say that it's not completely unfathomable that someone coming from a very poor, drug-use culture, generational-abuse-crime-and-poverty situation might come up with the totally inaccurate idea that suburban families have lots of money lying around. Very poor people-- especially those with drug habits and criminal histories-- do use (and hoard) cash, and often have a very skewed idea of how 'rich' the people they perceive as being well-off are. It's wrong, of course, but it's not as mind-boggling as it seems at first.
posted by Kpele at 3:51 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


How does that happen to someone? How does that happen to men with daughters of their own?

The same way it was okay for you to feel a home invasion is okay, as long as there isn't rape. Just a hop, skip and a jump. When you are willing to cross a line, the rest of them get easier and easier to cross. It's funny how people justify things they feel are okay, but then condemn others for crossing the line just a bit farther.
posted by usagizero at 3:52 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a snarky little voice inside me that wants to say Bill, I feel for ya. Really do. But did you hear about Katrina, the Boxing Day and Japan tsunamis, the earthquake in Haiti, and the tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa and Joplin? Those people don't even have psychopathic assholes to blame for their misery. Yet they will mostly, as we did in New Orleans, rebuild and go on.

If you look at things like that, it seems people are made of rubber; we can adapt to damn near anything. It's harder when you're a single victim; where is the justice when the tornado killed your family but left your neighbor's house untouched? But it is also in such times when those who are spared come together around the stricken. People are donating to his foundation and encouraging his work. It's probably not a big secret that he needs this as much as the people he helps need his help.

The problem with moving past something like this is that in order to do so you must somewhat forget, and if you see yourself as the only agency left for the memory of those who were lost that can seem hideously selfish and improper. If Bill rebounded from his tragedy by eloping with his secretary a few months later we'd consider him almost as big a monster as the assholes who killed his family.

But ultimately, mourning has to end if life is to go on. Thanks partly to Bill himself nobody will forget either his family or the monsters who took them from him for a long time. Eventually he will have to decide whether to let go and live, or go on indefinitely as a tortured shell of a man until the mercy of death ends his suffering.

It sounds like Bill and a lot of the people around him know he should be turning toward that path. But for a strong person, a focused person, a confident and fearless person, that can be harder that it would be for a weaker person. Bill expects more of himself. He perceives the necessary forgetting as a weakness which he must overcome.

I hope Bill manages to move on. He does not honor his family if he piles the ruin of his own life on the rest of their tragedy.
posted by localroger at 3:52 PM on June 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm hurting right now. -'m hurting really bad.

As I type this, my wife is in the bathroom, taking a shower, and talking to our unborn child, using the stirrings as a reply. To juxtapose such a touching moment with something like this ignites so much existential pain in my throat.

To think there are humans... Nay... Beasts posing as humans who would wish even a bruise on the two beings playfully engaging in the shower makes me truly wonder what evil lurks within our populace.

I may have trouble believing in god, but the devil is all too easy to see. Maybe that alone is what drives men to believe in the former.

It's our only hope.

Please. I don't ever want to read things like this again.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:56 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


My father was killed in 1993. The people responsible are serving a life sentence in Georgia.

I made it about 20% of the way through this story, and then realized I had better things to do, like...staring out the window and thinking about my beautiful children.
posted by thanotopsis at 3:58 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's a snarky little voice inside me that wants to say Bill, I feel for ya. Really do. But did you hear about Katrina, the Boxing Day and Japan tsunamis, the earthquake in Haiti, and the tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa and Joplin? Those people don't even have psychopathic assholes to blame for their misery. Yet they will mostly, as we did in New Orleans, rebuild and go on.

I'm not sure why compassion for the losses endured by people in natural disasters is supposed to cancel out compassion for the losses endured by people at the hands of other people.
posted by scody at 4:00 PM on June 2, 2011 [25 favorites]


scody, next time you might try reading the entire comment.
posted by localroger at 4:00 PM on June 2, 2011


I hope Bill manages to move on. He does not honor his family if he piles the ruin of his own life on the rest of their tragedy.

I am at a loss for words in how much this hurts my heart. I cannot imagine how I would draw breath, let alone move forward with any kind of life at all after such horror and trauma and heartbreak. I hope that Bill is able to move on as well, but I think it's grossly unfair to claim that he doesn't honor his family if he is unable or even unwilling to do so. Who among us can say with any certainty how we would or could cope or react to such horror, and thank goodness that we cannot do so.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:10 PM on June 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


I did read your entire comment, and either my reading comprehension is lacking or your writing is unclear; it still seems to me you are pitting one type of loss against the other. Either way, you seem to have some sense that you have the right to judge Petit, his grief, and/or how he sees fit to honor his family. Feel free to clarify.
posted by scody at 4:11 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


The same way it was okay for you to feel a home invasion is okay, as long as there isn't rape. Just a hop, skip and a jump. When you are willing to cross a line, the rest of them get easier and easier to cross. It's funny how people justify things they feel are okay, but then condemn others for crossing the line just a bit farther.

Saying that I can "distantly imagine" something is a long way off from endorsing it, buddy.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:12 PM on June 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


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posted by EatTheWeak at 4:31 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was a tough read.

I'm against the death penalty. I think killing people is wrong. And it is applied so unfairly. But everyone once in awhile I read about someone that I think should be taken out back and shot right after the trial. This was one of those times.
posted by marxchivist at 4:31 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


marxchivist, I am also against the death penalty institutionally if not personally. The execution of the innocent cannot be reversed and is as likely as not in our flawed system. But by God, if I'm not flesh and blood enough to understand it . . . I should really not read articles like this, because I start thinking of what I would do if I lost just one person under such circumstances, and then I start having revenge fantasies that involve living intestines. That kind of thing is not healthy.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:39 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


scody, it is my compassion for Bill that caused me to write that comment. If you do not understand that then yes, your reading comprehension must be faulty.
posted by localroger at 4:55 PM on June 2, 2011


your reading comprehension must be faulty.

Can we please not do this kind of thing in this particular thread please?
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:01 PM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Though it initially bothered me, I'm glad that the author's prose is so frequently so terrible ("If seeing [images of his former home/the crime scene] stabs his eyes like an ice pick, he doesn't show it"? Yikes).

It's distracting, but, after awhile with this story, any distraction at all is pretty welcome.
posted by wreckingball at 5:21 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, localranger, I don't understand what you're saying either. I would think having a psychopathic asshole to blame for my misery would be one fuck of a lot worse than enduring a natural disaster. A natural disaster can't be helped. An individual choosing these incomprehensible acts? How do you live the rest of your life knowing there are people like that out there?
posted by Space Kitty at 5:23 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


That's the problem, isn't it, with pacifism? What do you do with the bad actors, the incorrigibles, the impulse-driven, narcissistic hedonists who don't care about anyone or anything but where their next pleasure is coming from? There aren't many of them, thankfully, but there don't have to be many of them.

If a person is broken beyond our current ability to fix, is the best answer to simply end them? I hate it, but I believe it might be.
posted by Mooski at 5:39 PM on June 2, 2011


If Bill rebounded from his tragedy by eloping with his secretary a few months later we'd consider him almost as big a monster as the assholes who killed his family.

I don't know who the "we" refers to in this comment, but it doesn't include me. I can't imagine anyone with an ounce of compassion begrudging this man a single moment of happiness, indeed hoping that such a moment is even still possible for him. What he has endured is nearly unfathomable; if he drank himself to death over the next two months, I wouldn't blame him for a second.

But he didn't drink himself to death. He started a charity, and still in shock from massive blood loss he stood up at the funeral for his entire world and implored people to be brave and kind and merciful to each other, in honor of the loves of his life. I do not know how he came to possess such grace, but I hope with all my heart and in defiance of all probability that he can find an equal measure of peace.
posted by Errant at 5:39 PM on June 2, 2011 [24 favorites]


If you do not understand that then yes, your reading comprehension must be faulty.

Oh, OK. Good to know where the fault lies; I am working on a book deadline so that probably explains it. I am still sincerely curious as to what you meant, as I can only parse your original comment one way, but if you're not inclined to clarify, that's up to you.
posted by scody at 5:41 PM on June 2, 2011


But I just can't get to the place of being someone who moves from there to "Now let's rape this child and torture and murder this woman and her daughters!" in the space of a few hours. How does that happen to someone? How does that happen to men with daughters of their own?

He didn't move there in a few hours. If you were to read a bit about Komisarjevsky, the one largely responsible for pushing the tempo of the attack, you would see that he has a history of indulging himself by preying on others.
posted by BigSky at 5:47 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Space Kitty, I already know there are people like that out there. I have made something of a personal study of them. They are fortunately rare but that means you tend to be very alone when you are the unfortunate person who encounters one so spectacularly.

There is nothing in what I wrote that suggests anything about diverting compassion. I see Bill as needing more compassion than most because he is experiencing his own hell alone and his strength is itself a weakness that makes it harder than it should be for him to heal and move on. I feel very bad for him, but not just because his family was murdered. I feel bad for him because I think he is destroying himself in the aftermath.

I do not really see any difference between having your world ripped asunder by a fucked up human agent and having it ripped asunder by the climate or plate tectonics or an unfortunate startle reflex while you're driving. Tragedy is what it is. I have been close enough to this level of catastrophe to feel its breath on my neck more than once.

The dead are at peace and the killers are meeting the best excuse we have for justice. The only victim left suffering is Bill.

Anyway, I agree with the idea that belaboring this point here is probably not a good idea. It just irks me that someone obviously read the first paragraph, pre-formed a conclusion, and then managed to read the rest without altering that to the completely opposite conclusion that was meant and clearly expressed in the rest of the comment.

Anyway, exuenting thread stage left.

And for what it's worth,

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posted by localroger at 5:51 PM on June 2, 2011


I can't read the article, my guts won't let me, but I want to echo localranger and hope that Bill manages to move on. I lost someone precious, though not so brutally, and I take localranger's remark as wishing strength to Bill (thus indirectly to me) and not as a criticism.
posted by anadem at 6:17 PM on June 2, 2011


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posted by anadem at 6:18 PM on June 2, 2011


Now we need another Truman Capote to help figure out what the fuck was going through those guys' minds. Probably won't help prevent much. But we need to know.

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posted by likeso at 6:29 PM on June 2, 2011


His story reminds me of Walter Mikac, who lost his wife and two young daughters in the Port Arthur massacre. Walter has since remarried and had another daughter - I hope Bill Petit can one day do the same.
posted by Wantok at 6:34 PM on June 2, 2011


Its really really really hard for me to oppose the death penalty when I hear stories like this.

I dunno, leaving the murderers to rot in a Supermax prison sounds pretty appropriate to me.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:41 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was so painful to read, too painful. I hope I will forget this entire terrible story except for this: "help a neighbor, fight for a cause, love your family"

It made me think of the story of Chandrasekhar Sankurathri and how he dealt with incalculable loss.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:42 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It just irks me that someone obviously read the first paragraph, pre-formed a conclusion, and then managed to read the rest without altering that to the completely opposite conclusion that was meant and clearly expressed in the rest of the comment.

Sorry, it didn't seem all that clearly expressed to me.

I do not really see any difference between having your world ripped asunder by a fucked up human agent and having it ripped asunder by the climate or plate tectonics or an unfortunate startle reflex while you're driving. Tragedy is what it is. I have been close enough to this level of catastrophe to feel its breath on my neck more than once.

This is an interesting point; I agree with it in one way pretty deeply, and disagree in another. It is absolutely true that if your family is killed by a tornado vs. raped/tortured/murdered, in a very real way it gets you to exactly the same point -- and that is, simply, the inexpressibly painful fact of their absence in the world, and your need to go on living without them: "the gap you can't see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes no sound."

And yet: from my own vantage point relative to various catastrophes, I can also comprehend that survivors of different events under different circumstances may bear different dimensions of grief, horror, fury and sheer pain, due to their own empathy/compassion for their lost loved ones. Knowing that your wife and daughters were raped, tortured and murdered -- i.e., that their mental and physical suffering was intense and prolonged -- almost certainly must carry with it a level of anguish and torment that may not be present if you can surmise that your wife and daughters were knocked out by a falling beam and killed instantly -- i.e., that they did not suffer. I guess I just find it hard to feel like I would know what anyone "should" or "shouldn't" do in order to get past that.

The dead are at peace and the killers are meeting the best excuse we have for justice. The only victim left suffering is Bill.

And I deeply hope, too, that one day he finds some measure of peace.
posted by scody at 7:00 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I remember I flipped on CourTv when this trial was on, just as it was getting a bunch of news coverage.

Just listening to what happened caused me to sob uncontrollably. I didn't even read the article, and really I don't think I could.
posted by lauratheexplorer at 7:10 PM on June 2, 2011


I think that this will lead to lots of people buying guns they don't need and innocent men being executed because we are too afraid or vengeful to end a horribly flawed administration of the death penalty in this country. Yet at the same time, I'm armed and I've no problem with the state killing these particular criminals.
posted by humanfont at 7:30 PM on June 2, 2011


I know deep down inside that I am not as strong as this man. Much respect for Bill Petit. I am almost certain I could not do what he does, which is survive.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 7:32 PM on June 2, 2011


This story is viscerally terrifying. That Bill Petit was able to survive this, and get up every morning and make it through the day while continuing to work to make the world a better place...he is a better person than I. I hope that some day he finds peace and comfort and solace.
posted by dejah420 at 7:47 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


localroger I do not really see any difference between having your world ripped asunder by a fucked up human agent and having it ripped asunder by the climate or plate tectonics or an unfortunate startle reflex while you're driving. Tragedy is what it is. I have been close enough to this level of catastrophe to feel its breath on my neck more than once.

It is human nature to mis-estimate risk, and mis-classify tragedy. It's inherent in us, a limitation in the same category as our possession of two (or less) hands. See Bruce Schneier's classic article on the subject. This situation, being spectacular and rare, personified, uncontrolled, and memorable, is exactly the kind of thing that we tend to overestimate the risks of, and correspondingly, we would find it extremely difficult to recover from, if it happened to us. It's emotionally wrenching for almost all people to even hear about it.

If you differ from base-model humanity to that extent, localroger, you're an extremely unusual person. You are not "right", and scoby is not "wrong", and it would be no use at all to attempt to argue the matter, either way. There are only differences of outcome, in this case.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:51 PM on June 2, 2011


I do not really see any difference between having your world ripped asunder by a fucked up human agent and having it ripped asunder by the climate or plate tectonics or an unfortunate startle reflex while you're driving.

Just speaking for myself, I would imagine that there would be a huge difference in these two experiences. I think having such a brutal human attack would cause a seemingly unrecoverable rift in my psyche in terms of being able to trust others. Just walking down the street would be a painful exercise of constant wondering at the humanity (or possible extreme lack thereof) of every strange face or unknown passerby. I don't think tornadoes or earthquakes would cause me to lose faith in humanity the way something like these attacks would.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:18 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I dunno, leaving the murderers to rot in a Supermax prison sounds pretty appropriate to me.

I think you're right.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:04 AM on June 3, 2011


There is no such thing as closure.

When my father died of cancer I occupied that same weird space between life and death, not caring if death took me too.

Until the anger took over; I spent the next year and a half pissed off at the world and everyone in it. I didn't want to hear people's petty bullshit and whining about their insignificant problems. Over time that anger mellowed as I gained perspective and the hurt got tamped down by life.

But the pain never really goes away. Sometimes I'll be doing some random thing when my mind, for no reason it seems, suddenly opens a little door and instantly sweeps me back to that day in 1999, reliving the event in vivid detail for just a few moments, so real and visceral that the grief instantly comes flooding back, powerful and paralyzing.

Compare that loss, which was expected, to the horror Petit experienced, and it's easy to understand why he finds the word 'closure' idiotic. If the scholarship foundation helps him channel his pain into something fulfilling as he slowly reconnects with people, or even helps him find happiness again, then I wish him well.

I honestly can't say how I would respond in a situation like that and I hope to never find out.

I admire him for getting this far.
posted by bwg at 4:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


That was hard to read. Damn...
posted by Harald74 at 4:52 AM on June 3, 2011


I hope Bill Petit finds peace and healing.

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posted by arcticseal at 7:33 AM on June 3, 2011


"Victim impact statements" in a situation like this seem like a sad response to a lack of baseline empathy in the population. In an ideal world (well, ideal except for this kind of crime being possible), you could say "he barely escaped with his life and his family were raped and burned alive. How do you fucking THINK it impacted him?"

But we aren't educated to understand what horrible crimes can *do* to people. We think PTSD is something that only affects soldiers. We talk about people playing the "victim" card, so that we force people to try to *earn* the social status of "victim," when they are suffering horribly already from the brute fact of their victimization.

So we expect people to get up and put on a show for us of how badly they're hurt in order to earn the right to have minimal, basic justice done to the people who hurt them.

And you know, that's better than the victims' pain being minimized or ignored or written off, or bracketed and excluded from consideration, as happened sometimes before, especially when the victim was some kind of "other" who could be blamed for their own suffering. It's better that they CAN say it. It's better that we have "impact statements" than when we didn't.

But wouldn't it be a better world if we could count on people to recognize that kind of pain just from the facts of the matter?

If we could count on justice being done just because it was the right thing to do?

Anyway. Yeah. I am afraid I didn't read the whole article, so maybe I missed something important. & this post is an immediate emotional reaction, not a well thought out position, so, yeah, maybe it's dumb, but that's one thing I took away from this.
posted by edheil at 1:08 PM on June 3, 2011


This case is horrifying because the Petits were by all visible measures a strong, loving, community-minded family, and their virtues shine through in how they handled this ghastly circumstance. Bill Petit, half-dead and tightly bound, somehow fought his way out of that basement with seconds to spare. Hayley Petit, the athlete daughter who looked just like her dad, fought her way of of what was meant to be her deathbed, only to die in the hallway. Jennifer Petit held it together long enough to get to the bank, fake out her captors, alert the bank clerk and get back in the car with what she knew was a manifestation of pure evil. And all of them did this fueled by a meal cooked by the baby of the house.

And we know all this, how bad it was, how special this family was, because Bill got out alive. That was the message of his words at the funerals, and of his victim's impact statement at the trial. To survive to bear witness is unimaginable agony, but one senses that any member of this family who did survive would carry that weight with pride.

The death penalty is a mercy that I do not believe these killers deserve. And perhaps some humanity can still be coaxed out of them. They have had as profound a lesson in it as anyone gets in this life, and perhaps still some years to go before they wink out.
posted by Scram at 2:17 PM on June 3, 2011


Even with this well-written article, we don't know much about what Bill Petit thinks and feels, or what his healing process is like. We mostly saw the exterior of the man, and we can imagine how painful his experiences must have been. But I also imagine that his readings, thinking, work, conversation, and prayer are taking him along pathways we don't know. That's why I'm not comfortable saying "his strength is itself a weakness that makes it harder than it should be for him to heal and move on." It's hard to know what is truly going on in anyone's mind and heart.
posted by salvia at 12:14 AM on June 4, 2011


we don't know much about what Bill Petit thinks and feels, or what his healing process is like

Actually, we do; he isn't going through a healing process. He has insulated himself from the possibility of healing in order to preserve the memory of his family. That is very clear to me, and I think also to the author of the article.

I have been in this place myself, a space where you do not personally care whether you live or die but you have to live because there is some duty that binds you. And perhaps that duty is the only thing keeping you alive. I wasn't there very long because the betrayal was a relatively minor thing compared to what happened to Bill, it just meant I didn't talk to my parents for 17 years. But it was the most painful thing I have ever felt.

You might not have much idea what is going on in Bill Petit's head, but I do. So does the author of the article. It really isn't all that rare or mysterious. The article author has given us some very keen observations, some very focused, that illuminate this. Bill Petit is currently a person who spends most of his time in a state of psychological pain most of us can barely imagine. And it is not clear yet whether he will get over his pain, or let it eat him alive. That is the only mystery here.
posted by localroger at 3:17 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, we do

I respectfully disagree. It sounds like you have a lot of insights about the experience of and healing from tragedy. I am sorry for whatever it was you experienced and respect the wisdom that you have to share about what you believe it takes to heal.

That said, people follow different paths. Their lives have different details, and they have different backgrounds and beliefs, and they face different challenges in their healing. I believe that we ought to keep a respectful distance from thinking we know where someone is at or what they need to do. Even those who are especially close to me, I would hesitate to say I truly know their internal state or how to troubleshoot it.

I hold this agnosticism especially since we're getting our information from a magazine article. This is well-written and I'm assuming well-researched, but I'm not going to use it to presume I know Petit's inner life. A couple of the situations I've known personally that were covered in the media were vastly oversimplified and turned into stereotypes.

But even assuming this author picked up on all the possible nuance (which I'm willing to assume), I still don't agree we can have certainty. The article shows him as someone who draws a line between his private life and the public sphere. I'm not even sure how much the reporter talked to Petit; I don't think I saw direct quotes from Petit that didn't come from public sources. What new thoughts are Petit having that aren't ready for public viewing?

The reporter seems to agree that Petit is an amazing man with much resiliency. You seem to read his current actions as stasis and an unwillingness to heal. I could just as easily imagine that his memorial fund will be a pathway for him to become connected to important causes, and that his willingness to attend fundraisers even now means that he is committed to not letting the pain consume him, to remaining connected to others, and to harnessing his love for his family into loving action for many others. Of course, I may be wrong. But I'm not willing to assume I know that unless he changes his approach, he risks piling the ruin of his own life onto the tragedy (as you seem to be?).

Either way, I am deeply sorry for his pain and hope he will find healing and peace.
posted by salvia at 7:21 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, we do; he isn't going through a healing process. He has insulated himself from the possibility of healing in order to preserve the memory of his family. That is very clear to me, and I think also to the author of the article.

This is a very judgemental and angry conclusion to reach on the basis of a magazine article. It has been 3 years since the initial event and the second guy's trial is ongoing now. He had to physically recover from fairly significant injuries. It would be pretty normal for Simone who went through this kind of expperience to have PTSD in addition to ongoing physical pain from the injuries he received.

Perhaps you should consider if you are really concerned about his ability to love on, or just frustrated by your own powerless to do the same.
posted by humanfont at 7:50 PM on June 5, 2011


This is a very judgemental and angry conclusion

I"m tempted to say this must be "read only the first sentence before replying" week at metafilter. My feelings toward Bill Petit are the opposite of judgemental and angry, but what I see is a lot of projective judgmentalism and anger toward me for pointing out that the guy is circling a drain and he is not even trying to swim.

The article shows him as someone who draws a line between his private life and the public sphere. I'm not even sure how much the reporter talked to Petit; I don't think I saw direct quotes from Petit that didn't come from public sources.

The reporter spent a lot of time with Petit. What you are reading is the fact that Petit never opened up to him, and that he's obviously a very good journalist with a lot of experience and he had probably never experienced such patient and complete resistance to his attempts to engage.

That Bill has PTSD is a given. In fact he has a very advanced and dangerous form of it. This does not make how he is feeling a mystery that cannot be known by mere mortals however. What Bill is doing is very basic and obvious to anyone who has made a study of these things. He has walled off the pain by walling off all feelings. Thus, the way he drags through each day moving from task to task, only living at all because of the tasks; the anecdote about having to show up to the golf tournament because it's expected is an example, and very obviously included by the reporter because it's such an excellent example; this is a great gift of both money and publicity for his foundation, and Bill reacts only with the dull duty-driven response that he'll have to show up.

I hope it does not seem "judgemental and angry" when I point out that you can't live indefinitely like this. Three years is in fact a very long time to spend in this state, and if he doesn't find a way out within a few more years his way out is probably going to be suicide.
posted by localroger at 5:51 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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