If you’re from here, you’ve heard his name. You’ve read about him in the paper, or you’ve talked about him with a friend. You might not remember exactly who he is, but you know you’ve heard the name.
For most of us in the area, we first heard about Greg last summer. One early morning, someone crept into the Washington Street apartments and started a small fire in the stairwell. While Greg slept, the fire spread, and stole Greg’s life away.
Greg is a part of my life now, because of what he left behind. His loved ones light up when they speak of him, and his friends wear his name on tattoos. They decorate their cars in his memory. Greg is a part of my life, because he was loved so much that I feel his loss.
I often wonder about Greg’s killer. Is his life divided up into “before the fire” and “after the fire”? Does he remember Greg’s name? Does he believe in God? Does he call himself a killer? Is he afraid to die?
What about the fire? Did he intend to hurt someone? Was it supposed to just be a little vandalism? Did he know the people who lived there?
Did the fire frighten him? Did it excite him? Did he come back to watch it? Why did he do it? Why did he do it? Why did he do it? Will he do it again?
Greg is a part of my life because his killer haunts me.
If you’re from here, Greg is a part of your life too, whether you know it or not. Having died in this fire, he has come to represent our collective “How bad does it have to get?” How many more fires will there be? How many more people will die? He has come to represent sadness and tragedy, and the shame that we share in knowing that we haven’t caught his killer.
Greg’s death shames us more than even that of Rachel Scott. Not because Rachel’s life meant less or her death was less tragic, but because we saw Greg’s death coming. We watched our buildings burn down. One here. Another there. We were shocked and outraged, each time, for at least as long as it took for the smoke to clear. So this time, as people jumped from their apartment windows, and Greg lay dying on the floor … it wasn’t enough to be just shocked and outraged. This time we were ashamed.
Greg is a part of my life because I feel responsible for him. Could we have saved him, if we had demanded answers? Can we bring his killer to justice, if we demand results? Can we move this mountain, if we refuse to be denied?
He was 22 years old, and he was a musician. He had big dreams. If you’re from here, you know his name.