A Memory Sparked by Josh Powell and His Sons
By Shannon_Lell on February 08, 2012
Featured Member Post
On August 28th, 1987 I know exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was nine. It was Friday and one of the last days of summer before the first day of 4th grade. That morning I was just another American kid riding my pink, banana-seat bike with streamers on the handle bars and listening to Madonna on cassette tape. By the end of that day, I learned what evil was.
There's a local news story here in the Northwest Region that has made the national news. It's not a pleasant one. In fact, it's one of the most horrible things you can imagine. A man named Josh Powell allegedly killed his two sons in an effort to cover up the alleged murder of their mother. The story has brought back memories from my childhood that are hard to think about.
When I was nine I lived in an average, middle-class, Midwestern suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. I played softball in the Summers, got poison ivy every year from traipsing through the woods and my best friends lived within walking distance of my front porch. There were oodles of kids in my neighborhood, among them were two brothers. Their names were Jeremy and Eric. Jeremy was 12 and had sandy blonde hair. All the neighborhood girls had a crush on him. Eric was only eight and a year behind me in school. They weren't my best friends, mostly because they were boys, but on August 28th, 1987 I spent the day with both of them building a go-cart out of scrapped wood. That evening, after the go-cart had been sufficiently tried and failed, Jeremy and Eric's mother, like so many mothers, stood at the top of the street in a white blouse and called them home for dinner.
On that warm summer night me, my best friend and some other girls from the neighborhood were playing truth or dare on the front porch. One of the dares involved running into the middle of the street and pulling your shirt above your head. I can't remember if it was my dare or not, but someone did it. Shortly after, a cavalcade of firetrucks and police cars descended on our street and we thought for sure we were going to jail for indecent exposure. To our shock they passed us by and stopped up the street right in front of Jeremy and Eric's house. The previously dark and relatively quiet night was now ablaze in flashing lights and loud, scary sounds.
We didn't see or smell fire and they weren't getting out their hoses. The longer the police officers and fire fighters stayed, the more curious we became. I was a brave little girl and I volunteered to go up the street and eavesdrop on the adult neighbors gathered on the sidewalks to find out what was happening.
As I stood across the street looking at the house where the boys lived, I glanced down to the police car in front of me. In the backseat, closest to where I was standing sat their mother. She was wearing the same white blouse from earlier only now it was stained with something dark. Her hands were cuffed behind her back and she leaned sideways, her head on the window looking down. I couldn't see her eyes, only the side of her face. She was so motionless and seemingly catatonic that I remember thinking she might be dead.
She wasn't dead, but her sons were. After she called them to dinner she took them to McDonald's and then to a motel less than a mile from our street. She stabbed them to death with a fishing knife. She had just lost a custody battle with her ex-husband and decided that having them dead was better than having them live with him. I didn't know her name then, but now I will never forget it, it was Nila Wacaser.
My best friend and I, we went to those boys' funeral. We planted trees at our school and tied ribbons around them in memory. I honestly don't know how my nine-year old brain made sense of that whole thing. Perhaps it is a part of the fabric of my life that has inspired me to want to understand the human condition?
I can only say that as an adult and through my desire to understand why people behave the way they do, I understand mental illness in a whole new way. I know now that people don't have to be coughing or in the hospital to be considered sick and that just because someone smiles at you from over the fence doesn't mean they are okay. I know now that mental illness can make people do destructive, incomprehensible, nonsensical things that will make you shake your head in judgment and horror.
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