The other day I found myself reading through one of those year-end features, a round-up of celebrities and other famous people who died in 2017.
Some of these people made art or music that meant something to me, and I’d be lying if I said their deaths meant nothing to me.
You don’t always have to know a person to be saddened by their passing, to feel that one of the world’s bright lights has been snuffed out.
New Year’s Eve is a good time to reflect on the losses of the previous year, but as 2017 draws to a close I find myself strangely uninterested in the deaths of strangers I only knew through their movies, or performances or music.
Instead, the names and faces seared on my brain are the women and children found murdered in Troy shortly after Christmas.
They aren’t people I’d ever heard of before the horrible news of their deaths broke, and their names are not going to appear on any end-of-year lists. Most of us didn’t know them, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remember them, mourn them and do our best to keep their memories alive.
In fact, I’d say that we have an obligation to keep this family in our thoughts, to hope for a just resolution to a case where answers and explanations have thus far been few and far between.
On Saturday police made a huge breakthrough in the case, arresting two Schenectady residents, James W. White and Justin C. Mann, and arraigning them on murder charges.
Officials would not comment on motive, and while it would be nice to know more about what occurred, and why, I doubt any explanation would make this crime any easier to understand, or process. There are certain things that are just beyond most people’s ability to grasp, and the cold-blooded murder of innocent young children is one of them.
Every time I look at the photographs of the victims — 5-year-old Shanise Myers and 11-year-old Jeremiah Myers, their mother, Shanta Myers, 36, and her partner, Brandi Mells, 22 — I feel shocked and saddened all over again.
At the same time, I’ve felt encouraged and warmed by the outpouring of community support, and the speedy police response.
If nothing else, this case reminds us to be good neighbors, to look out for the people in our community, and help them out when we can.
It’s a lesson that, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, is all too easily forgotten and overlooked. But it’s a good lesson, one we should take into the new year.
Rather than simply wringing our hands with horror when a terrible crime shakes our community, it’s worth asking how we can channel our horror into productive and helpful activities.
One example: Donate to the GoFundMe page set up by the Troy Boys & Girls Club to raise money to provide mental health services to those who need it and pay for living expenses and a scholarship for an older brother who survived, 16-year-old Isaiah Smith. So far, this effort has raised more than $30,000.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with mourning celebrities.
Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to the outpouring of grief that accompanies these deaths, the comments and testimonies on Facebook and other social media platforms. I enjoy these public displays, and the opportunity they provide to celebrate artists who brought humor and beauty to our lives.
But what really makes me happy is seeing people come together to express their support and concern for the lesser-known and relatively anonymous, the people who populate our neighborhoods and spend their lives among us, working, living and loving.
People like the Myers family.
I did not know Shanta Myers, or Shanise Myers or Jeremiah Myers or Brandi Mells.
But they were part of our community, and their deaths hit me harder than the passing of any celebrity or VIP ever could.
Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.
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Categories: News, Opinion, Schenectady County