| 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
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
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
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
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