Words none of us want to hear: plane flies into building.
But it happened yesterday, here in Austin, the Texas capital. The incident took the lives of two and injured 13 when Joseph Stack, an Austin musician and software engineer, flew his single-engine plane into a seven-story building that housed offices including those of the Internal Revenue Service. Stack first burned down his own nearby home, leaving an online suicide note, a rant full of anger that has been plastered all over the Internet. If that's not creepy enough, his actions have made him an instant online hero with a number of lunatic fringe, anti-government wingnuts. For that reason, I will not post such links in this blog.
I assure readers, however, that the folks here in Austin and the rest of Texas are horrified and frightened that something like this could happen. Take a look at the online cover of our major daily newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman. The images of clouds of black smoke, charred, twisted metal and wreckage, and the stunned faces of witnesses are not easy to absorb. No, it's not the Pentagon or the towers, but the sense of shock, fear and loss here is still quite real.
We are not strangers to senseless tragedies. It is hard not to think now of the vilonece carried out by Charles Whitman on the campus of the University of Austin nearly 35 years ago, which took the lives of 14 and injured 32. Whitman, like Stack, turned his anger and rage toward his own home life before carrying out his violent mission. Whitman killed his own mother and wife before he climbed the UT tower to carry out his massacre.
The feelings I have about Stack's cowardly actions, that he could do this in my lovely adopted hometown, fill me with sorrow, anger, and tears I don't care to confess. Those in town who knew Stack or met him say he was the typical soft-spoken, mild-mannered guy. His manifesto, however, reveals a different Stack. He was angry with the government, and justifies his actions because "he had just had enough." Huh.
Stack refers to his tax and financial problems as a "disaster." Disaster? Remember, he owned his own plane. He had a home. He most certainly was not the only citizen angry with corporate America, struggling to recover lost savings and retirement.
But the rest of us don't fly our First World problems into a building filled with innocent people.