Monday, September 21, 2009

Can We Have Our Tragedy Back Now?

Annie Le's body is finally back in her hometown of Placerville, CA, a week after her body was found in the wall of a Yale lab building where she did her research. Services will be private. Her brother, Chris, gave an interview to a local TV station, in which he expressed some frustration with the media:
We just want the media to respect our privacy. We have a lot of stuff to do. This makes it all the much harder.

The Le's have the unenviable task not only of burying a family member who died traumatically, but of trying to sort out this incident that is uniquely theirs while there is an entire country of people who think it belongs to them.

Annie Le's murder captured the attention of media outlets all over the country, and with them all of their readers and viewers. On the day the suspect in her murder was first named, his name was the top most searched term on Google, and at least 3 other of the top 100 were related to Le and the investigation. We all feel like her death is our tragedy.

But it isn't. Most of us had never heard of Annie Le before she went missing, and had she not been killed we never would have. Our fascination with her case has absolutely nothing to do with her as a person, only with the circumstances of her death. And many of us think we are entitled to spout off theories about her and what "really" happened. Rumors run rampant about her killer, whether she had a romantic entanglement with him, what she might have said to put him over the edge, whether he was stalking her, and on and on.

That's not what her family wants to be thinking about right now. They want to deal with their grief and their trauma reactions, and they want to remember her as she was to them. As her brother said,

She lived a good life. we want to respect that and have others respect that as well.

Make no mistake about it, part of the trauma the Le family has to process now is the trauma of having complete strangers meander through their loved one's life, speculating, intruding, and saying any foolish thing that comes into their head. When they ask for privacy, they aren't just asking us to stop trying to interview them. They're asking for us to stop talking about this incident like we know anything because, from their point of view, we certainly don't.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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