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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.
June 20, 2005

Shaped by Events Around Us.

Last week, I was sitting at my desk in New York gathering myself together to catch an early Friday afternoon train up to Claverack, getting out of the city in advance of the afternoon rush and in time to enjoy the relative coolness of Claverack as New York City was blistering and buckling under the humid heat - we had gone from winter to summer in a speedy seven days.

Just as I was shutting down my computer a new e-mail popped up, from a neighbor in Claverack, and forwarding to me a news report that had come in - late the evening before there had been a double shooting in Claverack, on our lane. One was dead, another critical. No more details.

In CLAVERACK? On our street? Patroon is a beautiful, bucolic mixture of upper middle class suburban homes, a couple of cottages like ours and a couple of very ordinary homes, most back up to the dairy farm next door, all set on large pieces of property. It is not a place that seems the setting for mayhem.

Yet it was. Two doors down from us, up on the hill in an attractive cedar contemporary.

William Ames, 17, son of William Ames, around 11 p.m. walked into the room where his father was napping and shot him four times before going into another room and turning the gun upon himself.

The senior William some how managed to stagger to his car; it rolled down the driveway, across the street and into the drive of neighbor Jim Kerrick, who is a retired state trooper. He came out of his home to find out who was leaning on his horn by his front door.

William Ames Sr. is still alive, in critical condition in Albany after being airlifted there from the parking lot of the local school. William, Jr. is dead; gone without leaving a note or a clue as to why he shot his father.

I did not know the Ames, and after nearly four years on the circle, we are just now getting to know the neighbors, who are starting to wave gaily at us as we drive by and stop and chit chat with us on the odd occasion we run into them on our street. I did not know who lived in the cedar house up the hill; I only saw someone come and go at a distance once or twice.

The weekend conversation was as much about the shooting/suicide as it was about Flag Day, a major event in Hudson. What could have caused a seventeen year old young man to attempt to kill his father and to kill himself? What rage, madness, despair, drugs, coursed through his mind in the hour before?

I don't know. I do know the event has affected me, causing me to wonder at human motivations and passions. In Eugene, when we lived there, a young man in its companion city of Springfield murdered his parents, then took his gun to school and shot some fellow students. In Colorado, a few years back, two young men, dressed in black, killed a baker's dozen at their school and then shot one another.

Frequently in the last few days I have found myself staring off into the distance, thinking about young William Ames, a not unattractive young man in his last year of high school, who should have been at the beginning of a long life, and wondering why and for what reason.

Just as people still ask about the two in Colorado and young Kip Kinkel in Springfield, Oregon. Something snapped in these young men and tragedy unfolded.

As I attempt to comprehend these acts, I also work to comprehend why young men in Baghdad or Kabul or Palestine, strap explosives to their bodies and blow themselves to smithereens, taking with them innocent targets. They drape themselves in the mantles of religion and rebellion while young men like William Ames find themselves wrapped in our contemplation of possible psychosis with no clear clue as to what caused them to reach their murderous snapping point.