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Dave Obee: Deaths of Oak Bay children touch us all

What happened on Christmas Day in Oak Bay should not happen anywhere at any time. But it does happen, over and over, creating pain that will last a lifetime for many, many people.
A member of the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit at the homicide scene at the Haro Apartments on Beach Drive in Oak Bay on Tuesday. Dec. 26, 2017

VKA-obee-520501.jpgWhat happened on Christmas Day in Oak Bay should not happen anywhere at any time. But it does happen, over and over, creating pain that will last a lifetime for many, many people.

Two young girls dead, a man in hospital, a mother trying to cope with a loss that is almost beyond words, a community in shock at the senseless loss of life.

The deaths are being investigated as possible homicides — and every time children die at the hands of adults, we ask the same types of questions.

Why does this sort of thing happen? Why are children caught in the middle of disputes between adults? The mother saw plenty of warning signs, and some people tried to help her — but did others ignore, or trivialize, or discount her concerns?

But above all, one question remains: Why?

There are experts in this sort of thing. They will tell us that parents will kill their children as a way of inflicting the most pain on the other parent. That thinking is incomprehensible to the vast majority of us, which might be why it is so hard to find a way to save more lives. We can’t fix what we can’t understand.

Bad things happen everywhere. In Phoenix, also on Christmas Day, two children and their mother were shot to death, and the mother’s estranged spouse, the father of her children, was taken into custody.

Last week, in Kelowna, two young girls and their mother were killed. Their father, her husband, has been charged with murder.

But the Christmas Day deaths in Oak Bay hurt more. They happened in our backyard.

The mother of the two children is well known in Greater Victoria through her work in public relations and in business. Her friends were well aware of the issues she had been facing with the father of her two daughters.

Her work put her in contact with many members of the Times Colonist staff, and tears were shed on Tuesday as we gathered information for our coverage today. At times like this, journalists walk a fine line: We can’t walk away when people close to us are directly involved in something bad, but we can’t take advantage of our friendships either.

And if these murders are having an impact in our newsroom, try to imagine how work is every day for the first responders, the police officers and ambulance and fire department crews who never know when they will next have to walk into a room filled with unspeakable horror.

Or the investigators, the ones who must try to do the impossible: Make sense of what happened, where no sense can be found. Or the doctors and nurses dealing with the injured man, doing whatever they can to make him whole.

Many people in many different walks of life deal with crimes such as this far too often. It should be no surprise that so many people facing emergency situations end up with post-traumatic stress. After the immediate crisis has passed, the nightmares remain.

These people see the evil that humans can do, more often than we should wish upon anyone, yet they need to keep their own thinking straight and clear. That is not easy.

In the end, we will still have more questions than answers, more what-ifs, more regrets about needless deaths. There is nothing new about parents harming children, and someday soon we will hear of another dead child.

We need to find ways to identify the people who might put their own children at risk. We — all of us — need to watch for warning signs, and not just assume that they are someone else’s concern. And we need to act when we see those signs, and press the authorities to take action as well.

We all share responsibility for the well-being of our community.

It’s hard to think that two young girls lost their lives while they were in the company of a man who should have been doing all he could to save them from harm.

It is so much worse that they died on Christmas Day, a traditional time of giving and celebration and hope and love.

Yet we all must find a way to pick up the pieces and carry on, as if the hearts broken on Christmas Day in Oak Bay can ever mend.

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