A Sad Story

by ajamess on 20.Feb.11

in Other Musings,Photos,Travel

Haley and I had just returned from a 3 day weekend tooling about Central Washington.  It was around 3 PM or so, and we had just finished lunch in Duvall at a wonderful place called the Armadillo BBQ.  Full and happy, we weren't yet quite ready to head home, so we decided to head on over to Snoqualmie falls, which is about 20 minutes from our apartment.  We arrived there at about quarter past three, and parked in our normal spot along the side of Fall City Road, away from the main parking lot.  We headed up to the (now renovated) viewing platform, and I began to take some shots.  We spent 30 minutes or so walking about and enjoying the setting sun when my camera battery went dead.  I decided to go back to the car, grab a new battery and a wider lens.

I returned to shooting for another 20 minutes or so, and at 4:30, Haley and I decided that we were ready to go home, enjoy a pizza, and relax a bit.  We arrived at our car, and, being preoccupied with cleaning a very wet UV filter, I wasn't paying much attention to my surroundings as I got into the car.  Haley, on the other hand, was.  "Check out that car to our left," she said, "it's got a broken window…".  Sure enough, the rear passenger window of the Lexus crossover to our left was broken, shards of glass sitting on the dirt next to the car.  I walked over and took a look, noticing that there was a lack of anything valuable remaining in the back seat.  Once I saw this, I told Haley to go talk to an employee at the falls' visitors center to maybe see if they could make an announcement to get the attention of the owners of the vehicle.  I decided to wait in our car to see if the owners came over.  While waiting, I once again resumed polishing my grubby filter, and, looking up a few minutes later, saw a group of 5 people milling around the Lexus in question.

I set aside my filter and walked over to them, asking if it was their vehicle.  "Yes," an older man responded.  I began to tell him and his wife that Haley and I had returned to our car at 4:38 to see the broken window, and that Haley had gone to inform the park employees.  I told them to call the police immediately, and that Haley and I would stick around until they arrived, just in case the police needed a statement from us.  Immediately upon mentioning "police," one of the couple's companions, we'll call her Jane (to protect the innocent), started bawling uncontrollably.  She was absolutely beside herself.  She was so distraught that she began to roll on the ground and hold herself around her knees.  All the while her friends were attempting, unsuccessfully, to console her.  This is when the story gets sad. 

The only item stolen from the car was Jane's purse.  Now, given my description of her emotional state, you may be wondering why she was so upset.  Normally, when one loses a purse, a wallet, what have you, it's an inconvenience.  Most of us can cancel our credit cards, recover our licenses, and recoup the 36 or so dollars we lost in the process.  Of course, one cannot discount the feeling of being violated that comes along with having something personal stolen by a complete stranger; however, most of the time people don't go to pieces, like Jane was currently doing.  In this case, though, Jane's purse contained her entire life.  As we found out, she was a visiting scholar from abroad who was in the states for 6 months.  Her purse contained several thousand dollars cash, her work visa, her passport, all of her identification, credit cards, and, worst of all, flash drives containing her life's work.  In short, this bag contained everything she needed to get by in a foreign land, as well as several items which were impossible to replace.  We tried to offer her some water, something to eat, some kleenex, but she was completely (and rightly so) inconsolable.

Fifteen minutes later, a sheriff arrived and began to ask some questions.  He kept a professional demeanor, given the circumstances.  While he did seem a bit distant, it was obvious that there was only so much he could do in this particular case.  There was no evidence to collect, no security footage, nothing to aid in any kind of investigation except for the "testimony" of Haley and I, which amounted to being the first to see the broken window.  We stayed for another twenty minutes while the officer finished his questioning and it was obvious we were no longer needed.  The owners of the car thanked us for our time and we headed home.

On the way back, I realized a few things about the situation.  First, was the incredible speed at which, upon seeing the broken window and realizing what had happened, my mind went immediately to Haley's and my own belongings and whether or not anything was missing from our own car.  I suppose I can't claim to not be a selfish individual when such things as this happen.  Second was my realization about how incredibly painful it can be for something to be stolen from you.  Up until this point, I had considered stealing to be one of the "minor" transgressions that is always forgivable.  I suppose this is not surprising, given the culture of "mystique" and "honor" we build up around stealing through things like "Robin Hood" and "The Thomas Crown Affair", but, really, it can tear someone apart.  Imagine someone stealing your life's work, intentionally or not.  Would you be able to forgive him or her?  I wouldn't.  And I doubt Jane will be able to, either.

I hope against hope that everything will work out for this woman, a woman who now will think of Seattle, and the United States, as the "place where my entire life was stolen."  I hope, too, that perhaps the thieves who stole her purse will make some attempt at returning some of her irreplaceables.  It is unlikely that either of these things will happen.  If you know anything, contact the Snoqualmie Police Department.

In the mean time, here's a photo to cheer you up.

Sunset on the Snoqualmie River

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Samson Lu March 2, 2011 at 23:49

I am actually taking a class from the owner of the car, and he told us the story last week. I feel so frustrated because nothing besides the money is replaceable. This is a terrible thing that should never happen to anybody. I really really hope everything gets returned to her.


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