She'd turned away her uncle earlier that day. Now he was back, and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Fifteen-year-old Cassidy again tried to dissuade him from entering the suburban Houston residence, but her efforts were in vain.
Once inside, Ronald Lee Haskell tied up his niece and her four siblings (Bryan, 13, Emily, 9, Rebecca, 7, and Zach, 4), then waited for their parents to come home. When Katie and Stephen Stay walked in, they, too, were bound at gunpoint.
Haskell had driven hundreds of miles, hell-bent on finding his ex-wife, Melannie Lyon, Katie's sister. When the Stays wouldn't - or couldn't - provide him with her location, Haskell ended the interrogation by shooting each of them in the head, as they lay facedown on the floor.
In what can only be described as a miracle, Cassidy survived the shootings. She succeeded in playing dead until Haskell left, then called 911, reporting that her grandparents might be next on his list. That information enabled police to intervene before Haskell could get to them, and after a three-hour standoff, he surrendered.
Per our gruesome custom, the hand-ringing has already begun over Haskell's record of emotional instability, the criminal charges and protective orders he's faced for assault and domestic violence (including an incident, just days before the murders, in which he allegedly attacked his mother), as well as the question of how someone with his history could procure and retain a firearm.
Valid concerns, all. Taken collectively, they bring us face to face with what may be the most contentious issue of our time: Would our society be better off without guns?
Arguments either way have been made ad nauseam. Yet, other than our ever-increasing body count, nothing seems to change. All the more reason to evaluate this issue from a different perspective.
It is difficult to imagine a more gut-wrenching scene than the one that took place on July 9, 2014, in Spring, Texas. Did Ronald Lee Haskell force Katie and Stephen Stay to watch him take aim at their children, before they themselves were slaughtered? Did the youngest victims bear witness to the murder of their parents before a gun was pointed at their heads? Are there any words that could possibly do justice to the moments before, during, and after each pull of the trigger, for those who were next in line?
Read that paragraph again, one sentence at a time. After each line, close your eyes and picture how it would feel to be in the victims' shoes: As a parent, with your children lying next to you; As a spouse or partner, shoulder to shoulder on the floor with your significant other; As a brother . . . a sister . . . a 4-year-old child; As the last member of your family to be shot; As the only one to survive.
Experience those feelings as fully as you can. When you're finished, talk to a loved one, or a close friend. Tell them about your experience, and urge them to take part in the same exercise.
Then, whenever the topic of guns in our society arises, or you have - or, better yet, create - an opportunity to weigh in on the matter, remember.
© 2014 John J. Morlino, Jr.