When I was little, I sometimes asked my parents what would happen if bad guys ever tried to hurt us. They always said we would defend ourselves and kill the bad guys, if needed.
“We would never let anything happen to you,” they promised.
I believed them because I was little. I’m sure they meant well.
I wonder if Philip Savopoulos’ parents promised him the same thing.
Savvas Savopoulos was a martial arts expert, which means the guy who would soon murder him and his family probably held a gun to his wife and son to get him to cooperate.
It must have been a good life before that day.
The Savopoulos family lived just a few doors down from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Washington D.C. Very rich.
The family was probably going to do something really fun this Memorial Day weekend.
I don’t know how good of a guy Savvas Savopoulos was. I don’t know anything about his wife, Amy. The housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, might not have been a great person. I can’t be sure.
They were reportedly generous and charitable people. I rarely assume the worst.
But I do know about Philip Savopoulos.
Because he was only 10. Probably in fifth grade. Maybe just starting to like a girl at school. He probably liked the Washington Redskins. And NBA star John Wall. And the Avengers.
He was probably looking forward to summer break when he’d go on an amazing vacation with his family and maybe attend some cool summer camps. Certainly, he’d be spending some days playing video games, talking about girls, or participating in outdoor fun with his buddies.
He must have felt safe every second of his life.
Until that day.
When a man forced his way into their home. Tied up his dad. Tied up his mom. Tied up the housekeeper. And then himself.
Young Philip was probably really scared.
But I bet he never imagined that less than a day later, he would be dead, his parents, dead, his housekeeper, dead, and his home set on fire.
Nothing REALLY bad ever happened to me growing up. My parents divorced when I was 4, and it was hard because my dad lived 500 miles away, but when you’re that age, it just feels normal because this is just the way it is.
So, when I got divorced at 34, I completely freaked out and broke on the inside. And I think it’s because divorce is always hard and a shock to the system for most of us, but also because my mind and body had never been through a trauma like that.
He was just 10.
He had probably never been through a trauma like that. It’s possible he had never even seen a home invasion in a movie or heard about one on the news.
But there he was, bound with duct tape. Maybe to a piece of furniture. Maybe to one of his parents.
Maybe he cried a lot. He was just 10.
Daron Wint is 34. About my age. He used to work for Savvas Savopoulos’ company.
Wint kept them tied up while he searched the house for money. He eventually made off with $40,000. Investigators don’t yet know whether money was the only motive.
“The victims suffered from blunt force trauma. Authorities believe the four were killed before the house was set ablaze, according to the source familiar with the investigation,” CNN reported. “The source said the victims were bounded with duct tape, and there were signs that Philip had been stabbed and tortured before he was set on fire.”
There are two teenage girls. High schoolers. They attend boarding school, so they weren’t home, otherwise they would have been murdered (or worse) too.
Today, those two, already dealing with the most-complicated and confusing part of their lives, just found out their parents and little brother are dead, and that their home was set on fire.
Their lives will, in many respects, be defined by some guy they never met.
I wonder whether Wint stabbed and tortured a 10-year-old child in front of his parents. Screaming: “Where’s the money, motherfucker!?” before hurting Philip again. A helpless mother and father’s soul being ripped out in the worst possible combination of rage and fear and hopelessness and helplessness imaginable.
I can’t even type it with dry eyes.
You know what I think about the most, though?
The Domino’s pizza delivery guy or girl.
While the family was held hostage, Wint ordered two pizzas. He left cash in an envelope instructing the driver to leave the pizzas by the door.
The driver must have thought that was strange, but since the money was there, what choice did he or she have? You take it and drive away, mission accomplished.
You tell your friends at work about the odd experience and move on with your life.
A few days later, the news breaks that DNA left on some pizza crust is how investigators identified the killer. There’s shock at first. Then reality sets in.
Oh my God. I could have been killed.
Oh my God. I wish I would have called the police! Those people! I didn’t know!
Oh my God. That family’s final meal was the pizza I delivered. That little boy.
I think about that person the most.
They’ll always carry that around with no place to deliver it.
What Are Humans All About?
Today’s writing prompt from WordPress on The Daily Post was: “The friendly, English-speaking extraterrestrial you run into outside your house is asking you to recommend the one book, movie, or song that explains what humans are all about. What do you pick?”
I couldn’t think of a book. Or a movie. Or a song.
But I like the question. What are humans all about?
And I thought about the grisly details of the Savopolous family’s brutal slaying.
We live in a world where—for whatever reason, but possibly something as simple as $40,000—a man will beat, torture, and stab a 10-year-old boy in front of his screaming, sobbing parents.
We live in a world where things like that happen.
A family in Connecticut was killed the same way in 2008.
Not terribly far from there, a young man invaded a school one day in Newtown, Ct. and shot a bunch of kindergarteners and elementary school kids.
Some people will cut your head off with a knife on video because you disagree about religion.
Others will hijack airplanes and fly them into skyscrapers.
There are violent rapes. Child kidnappings and molestation and abuse. We see bullying. And theft. And infidelity. And fraud. And disease. And starvation.
These things are real and are happening every day.
What are humans all about?
In a world where all of those things happen, people keep trying. Those horrible things crawl into our insides and infect us with fear. Sometimes we think ONLY bad things happen because it seems like we only hear about bad things.
But Kim just donated a kidney to a stranger.
And young Malik just visited (and often does) old man Johnson who has been lonely ever since his wife died two years ago.
Lucas just defended Brennan on the playground when a bunch of kids were making fun of him, and Lucas is the most-popular kid in the class.
Wendy just forgave Michael.
An African village just got a new well, and now a bunch of kids have a chance, all because people with big hearts have made this their mission.
Alyssa rescued another dog.
A child was adopted.
A girlfriend got a proposal.
A friend got a hug.
A neglected person found love.
A lost person found meaning.
A plant sprouted, and dammit, it was a miracle.
Humans are a riddle. A maddening, never-quite-solvable puzzle. Capable of terrible things. Things worse than we can conjure up in our most-twisted thoughts.
And they are also the most generous, creative, loving, inspiring, IMPORTANT thing ever documented in the history of the universe.
You can look at the riots, and the train wreck, and the brutal murder. It’s hard not to.
But you can also look over there, too. That way. Over there where hope lives.
At that thing that’s good, and perfect, and beautiful. See it?
The most horrible things happen. And still, we hope. Still, we love.
What are humans all about?