A young man with whom I'm acquainted -- J., a barista at the local coffee shop -- was recently, without provocation, stabbed sixteen times while out walking his dog. A clearly mentally-ill man knocked him to the ground and stabbed him in his face, neck and chest. The dog (a small one) barked and barked. My friend offered the assailant his wallet, but to no avail: the attacker was delusional and paranoid. J. was finally able to throw him off.
I don't know what happened next except that the police were called, the knife-wielder caught, and J. was rushed to emergency. I was at work when this happened, about a half mile from the scene, and both Melinda and I remarked on the number of emergency vehicles racing by the house, not knowing, at that time, what had happened.
The Seattle Times reported the incident briefly, and spoke of "superficial wounds."
I ran into J. this week on the light rail. He's perhaps thirty, studying to be an EMT, a tender-souled man with a quiet friendly manner. There's a genuineness, an honesty about him that is striking. (Wishing he were, oh, twenty-or-so-years-older....)
Sitting on the train, he pulled up his shirt to show one of the (healing) wounds on his chest, and another on his shoulder which came precariously close to nicking his lung. I pointed out that the gouge on his cheek will only make him more handsome, and he laughed. He seemed relaxed, at peace, but I can only imagine what the long-term effects of an act of violence such as this will have on his psyche. The knife-wounds will heal, the scars will fade with time, but my fear for J. is of the lingering effects of this incident.
J. was present at the man's arraignment, and said that he is clearly a disconnected person, undoubtedly mentally ill.
That this happened just blocks from my house increases the volume of the alarm I feel, on many levels. This attacker did not belong on the streets, but given the state of public health in this country, I know that he is one of many. But how many? Will this man be released back into the world at large? I feel tremendous compassion for J., but also for his assailant, who, with appropriate medical care and supervision, would probably not be posing a risk to the general population, and could very possibly be living a productive life.
There exists sadness and tragedy in every aspect of this.
And what to do?
Love those we love more fiercely.
Rejoice in the ordinary day.