Monday, March 24, 2008

Tragedy in Iowa City

While getting ready for class this morning I received a Hawk Alert from the University of Iowa. The message stated that an "active shooter" was in Iowa City, a male driving a 1998 Toyota Sienna tan minivan, and that if spotted, witnesses should call 9-1-1 from a safe location.

I jumped online to get more information from local news sites. They did a very good job providing details, but I noticed a post by a female visitor in which she complained about the Hawk Alert being used this way. What?!! This is EXACTLY how and when it should be used. Unlike many university campuses across the country which sit isolated on their own property, the University of Iowa campus is integrated with the downtown area of Iowa City--something I appreciate for the vibrant variety and feeling of community. It's charming and eclectic, college kids mixing with residents, bookstores and churches mixing with lecture buildings and class halls.

I appreciated the Hawk Alert so I could proceed to campus with caution. The message was not alarmist but factual. [Note: Read the dispute by some students about the Hawk Alert failing to "tell them what to do".]

And the story is extremely tragic. The suspected shooter is Steven Sueppel (age 42), a man who had been charged with stealing $559,040 from the bank where he worked as a vice president. He apparently shot his wife Sheryl (also 42) and their four young children in their home at 6:31 this morning. Police received a call from a cell phone telling them to get to the residence ASAP, then disconnected. It was probably Steven. He was not at the home when the police arrived and the family's Toyota Sienna minivan was missing.

A short time later, a Toyota Sienna minivan was found smashed into a sign support along I-80 fully engulfed in flames at approximately 7:00am this morning. A lone figure could be seen in the driver's seat, dead. An autopsy will be conducted tomorrow to determine if this is Steven.

Coming home from class this afternoon--eerily, in my 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan, although mine is blue--I turned off my radio and reflected on this man, his family and his choices.

I'm sure when he was a little boy, he never thought he would get into this kind of trouble. I'm sure his wife Sheryl, active on their school's PTA and interviewed once for local radio, didn't imagine how her life would end and that her husband, the man to whom she'd said "I do" and shared dreams for a future together, that this man would fall into the trap of lies and deceit, nor that he would turn on her and their four precious children and kill them.

I'm sure his children, Ethan, 10; Seth, 7; Mira, 5; and Eleanor, 3 (all adopted), had enjoyed a fun Easter weekend with their grandparents and family in the area and had no idea what their daddy was capable of. His choices, each step of the way and concluding this morning, wiped out six people's lives--five of whom were completely innocent.

His choices, what he did in secret, eventually came out and destroyed him and his family.

If we think our choices do not matter, then we must think again.

And choose differently.