I am a court house.
I am a troubled court house. I cannot get it out of my memory what happened that Christmas party in the late 60s.
We were supposed I was supposed to be a place of justice. Safe as the house that just spoke.
When parents fail their children in some way the family is broken up. The children are protected. Put in foster care. Social workers are given the cases and if a family is too messed up to be allowed visits and this is mostly the case, they meet with the children here on my lower floor. They get a short supervised visit and must put on their best behavior.
Best behavior or not, these gatherings are always very emotional. A lot of anger enters here on a daily basis.
This time a rather large family was involved in a Christmas party. School was out for the holiday and wouldn’t go back until January of the next year.
It was really cold and blustery outside. Everyone was suitably bundled up as they entered the building.
Because there were seven children involved in this situation, six in foster care and one infant, there were three case workers on hand to manage the party.
Case workers always have a general idea of how messed up a family is but this one was unexpected.
This party would become state wide nationwide news and no doubt written into the social workers handbook as the worst possible outcome.
The first to arrive was two boys and a girl from one social worker who ferried them in and intended to stay and observe.
The mother and infant were the next to arrive. The infant was sleeping so the mother sat her on a few coats. This was in the days before people encased their babies in carriers that snapped in and out of cars and grocery carts.
This was a new infant. Fully related to all of the children that would be there.
Then came three more boys, a little older, brought by a second social worker. A third social worker showed up with the second and seemed to be there just to observe, he was very young and after this party he never would pursue the job.
It wasn’t long after the boys had shed their coats on the couch with the infant who still slept, that the father of the group came to the door.
He was stiff and red and obviously angry. The social worker at the door seemed reluctant to let him in.
The oldest boy rushed out he was in the seventh grade and anxious for his mom and dad to behave. He came out to welcome his dad into the room when the man suddenly pulled out a weapon.
He said very clearly that if he couldn’t have his kids, no one was going to have them.
He shot and shot and shot. The social workers, a mother and five children died at that Christmas party.
The infant was forgotten under the coats and did not have any injuries. The oldest boy survived a shot to his neck.
The father who wanted to make sure no one had his children, went home and shot himself in the head.
I think about this constantly. Every Christmas when the decorations begin to go up and parties are planned I re live this horrible event.
The infant was adopted here, just upstairs in the family court room about a year later. The oldest boy never came back. I do not know what happened to him.
There is a plaque on a wall with the names of the social workers and family who died that day. The father is there too, it was with great reluctance that he was inscribed on this plaque but he is there none the less, at the end.
The survivors, the youngest and oldest are not mentioned on the list. And it is dedicated to the idea of family.
No one really talks about the event around here but parties are taken very seriously. People are checked for weapons and far fewer events are set up here. There is a scanner at all of the entrances to catch fire arms.
I still relive the party. It shakes my foundation. It is a curse.
*based on a true event that happened sometime in the 1960s.