When I moved here, in 1986, the county had no traffic lights, no McDonalds, or Wendy’s. People didn’t lock their houses or cars. Flatrock had the “Trading Post” – with two gas pumps and an adjacent saddle shop. There were three schools, county wide, one elementary, middle, and high school. Kids from all three rode the school bus together. Well, three public schools and two private schools. Jamie, Chris, Ian, and Ryan had the same bus driver that JL did.
Trees arched over narrow country roads, dotted with old farm and plantation houses. Pastures with horses and cows, grazing on lush, green grass stretched endlessly into the horizon. It was an easy place to want to be.
It was idyllic. A vast change from the frenetic Northeast where I had grown up. The town I grew up in is a city now.
Change seemed to come slowly, here. Beth and her husband were killed, shortly after Ian was born. Murdered. She and JL were good friends. I had seen her two days before she was brutally killed and her house set a-fire. We chatted about being home alone, watching Psycho, and the need to keep doors locked. In retrospect, it was an ominous conversation. It left me very unnerved.
But life takes over and we move on. Traffic lights—I think there are six now. The Trading Post closed. Sheetz replaced it, with twenty gas pumps, an ATM and fast food. McDonalds, Food Lion (the old Food lion). Crystal and Robbie were murdered – Crystal was one the phone with a friend, who heard the whole exchange. Jamie was friends with Robbie. New elementary schools, a new high school…
Sure, other murders happened – husband finds wife cheating, or wife finds husband. The sort of violence that you could wrap your mind around. You could follow the story, and rationalize it. And it didn’t happen often. Another Food Lion arrived, the new Food Lion.
Then Tahliek Taliaferro was murdered. A black boy, killed by 2 white boys, in the company of a young woman. Through my work with the county schools, I was acquainted with everyone involved, old county names. I was in California when I got the call. Someone snapped a picture of me standing overlooking the pacific ocean listening to my children—3000 miles away—telling me there had been a shooting—on our road. Murderers on the loose. They were apprehended, days later. Their trial could be another whole blog—or book—that I hope someone writes. It’s not my story to tell.
There were two other murders in the county that summer—and the universe shifted for citizens here. Last year, a boy was stabbed, on the Taliaferro property, if stories are to be believed. He died at the post office. Earlier this month, two men were brought to the county from Richmond—down one of those idyllic country roads—they were shot and left for dead. One survived.
And yesterday, two men—whose names and families I know—were killed, right up the road. At 4:30pm. I drove that road—right by the murder site—at 3:30 and then came home about 5:30, right by it again. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, either time. Jamie noticed a yard with lots of cars and people milling around. But dismissed it, because despite all of the afore mentioned crime, people here still believe we live in a safe place.
I can hear all the old county people blaming this on people moving here from the city. But all of these murders happened here. All of the names are old county names…
What has happened here? What will happen when the much-contested Walmart arrives? With it will come the inevitable increase in crime rates.
Where will my idyllic home be then?