The murder of a child is the cruelest death of all. Our hearts break. The loss feels incomprehensible. Trying to cope with the murders of multiple children can overwhelm the emotional reserves of an entire community, a whole city, even a country.
While the world never knew them, no one will ever forget the nineteen babies and toddlers of Oklahoma City. Or the twenty school children of Sandy Hook Elementary School. We are also reminded daily of the ongoing, never-ending mass murders of children all across the world.
In the wake of these kinds of deaths, we struggle with the horror as we attempt to honor their memories. How do you celebrate a life un-lived? The years of promise unfulfilled -- all gone in an instant?
To assuage the emotional upheaval caused by these unimaginable losses, memorials have been held. Monuments have been built. And requiems have been written.
But what about the children whose souls have been silently and slowly extinguished by sexual predators like Bill Bricker? The children who die slowly, gradually over the passage of time, left to live with corrosive memories of abuse that eats them from the inside. The children who become alcoholics or drug addicts. The children who begin to suffer from mental illness. Or the children who can no longer bear the pain and finally commit suicide.
Who will honor the dozens and dozens of boys and girls abused by Bricker, who have suffered alone, tortured for decades with the nightmares of remembrance, dying a thousand times each day, crushed under the weight of shame and humiliation, molested by someone they trusted?
Each one of these children was enthusiastically sacrificed to the respected teacher, scout leader, and camp counselor by the same adults charged with their protection. He was a war hero. So they ignored the complaints. He was popular. So they refused to believe the victims. He had powerful friends. So everyone looked away while Bricker cut the hearts and souls out of three generations of defenseless children.
Who will write their requiem? Who will build a monument worthy of their memories?
• • • • •
An anonymous, handwritten note in Bill Bricker's Winnetka school file estimated that he had molested at least 100 children during his decades as a school teacher, scout leader, and camp counselor. These are lives that Bill Bricker destroyed in countless ways. He took away one child's unbridled eagerness, happiness and joy. He ended another child's future dreams and smothered his innocence. He wreaked havoc on dozens and dozens of other children, with psychic devastation that followed many into adulthood.
He could have been stopped years ago. He should have been tried and he would have been convicted.
But despite what Bricker did, many of the boys and girls he took advantage of became productive, successful members of society. They survived, albeit wounded. As one of Bricker's survivors pointed out, "I don't know how the molestation affected me, but I know it affected me."
Bill Bricker died a few days ago, having squeezed every possible accolade and honorarium he could out of his undeserved ninety-four years. Thanks to law enforcement in Wyoming, Bricker's enablers in Illinois could no longer protect him. His illegitimate legacy has been erased with his arrest in September of 2014 for inappropriate behavior with three minors. His public humiliation encouraged of some of his silent victims to finally come forward and speak out about what he did to them.
A newspaper account of Bricker's passing noted that he would be cremated. There would be no services and no burial.
Hearing this, someone suggested that his ashes should be flushed down a toilet. I thought the idea was worth mentioning.