Tag Archives: Baton Rouge

now it can be told

A bit melodramatic, our title is, but the whole thing seems a bit melodramatic sometimes. Nothing will bring Zach back but I still have questions about the night he died.

To that end, I traveled back to Baton Rouge on Tuesday. I never wanted to go back, but I did. I only told one person where I was going because I didn’t want to have to justify it ahead of time. I’ve been calling it my ‘white whale’ because it sometimes seems like an ill-fated obsession.

Well, I’m home safe now, so ‘ill-fated’ it wasn’t. My apologies to Micah and Julie for not letting you know I was in town. I had to maintain my focus and I only had a short time there. I also didn’t (don’t) want to drag them through that experience for my benefit. It’s my obsession, dammit, and I’m keeping it to myself.

Well, not really, because I’m writing about it here. Here’s what I did: I got up early and took a non stop flight to New Orleans, arriving in the early afternoon. I rented a car and drove to Baton Rouge and got a room. I then headed over to the stretch of Lee drive between Perkins Road and the site of Zach’s death. I had a camera, my voice recorder, a laser rangefinder, a notebook. It was about 5 pm and rush hour (I can only assume) was in full swing. Cars were pouring through that intersection without letup for the whole two hours I was there. Actually, by the end I thought it might have lessened somewhat but I also thought perhaps I was just getting used to it.

With the rangefinder I measured the distances all along Lee Drive. I had bought one of those rangefinders designed to be used for hunting that was good for up to 600 yards because I thought I might want to measure the whole distance all at once. In the event, I used the telephone poles along the street that were only about 25 to 50 yards apart. The accuracy of the rangefinder is 1 yard so it wasn’t civil engineering. Actually, the whole thing was pretty ad hoc but I’m not displeased with the results.

I drew a simple map of the street showing the side streets and the distances along Lee. I took pictures and video of the cars surging down Lee with special attention to how and where they merged and where exactly the pavement was no longer two cars wide. I spoke my impressions into my voice recorder.

Oh, and I brought one more thing, a stopwatch. The old fashioned kind that has three buttons on top. Actually, the old fashioned kind only had two buttons. This one is digital and had a clock mode, hence the third button. I wanted this style so I could watch the cars go by a certain point and time them along a known distance. I didn’t want to be fussing around with ‘buttons’ on my smart phone.

It worked great. I stood by one of the telephone poles and timed cars going by at the point near to where I believe Zach was hit. When I got back to the hotel room, I calculated their speeds and tabulated it all in a spreadsheet.

(I will omit a long digression where I first forgot how to calculate rates, then found that I had measured a critical distance wrong. So that last part actually took quite a while.)

I’m going to save the details for another post which will be based on a letter I will write to the Baton Rouge District Attorney asking him/her to reopen the case and file more significant charges against the driver, Shawn Allen. I also think the driver of the other vehicle, Reginald Herzog, Jr, has culpability as well as I believe the two drivers were racing each other and not paying proper attention to the road. My information is that criminal charges can be filed up to 4 years after the incident.

In the morning, after a restless night, I went back to the vicinity and made a video driving through the Perkins intersection from College onto Lee so times could be extracted from that although I did not have a camera on the speedometer.

I took some more photos, particularly of the bike, which is still there. The post accident story of the bike is here.

After that, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. It was still early, but there was nothing else in Baton Rouge for me. I drove slowly back to the New Orleans airport on back roads and flew home.

PTSD

Despite all my blowback from Zach’s death, I really hadn’t thought about my reactions in anything like the terms usually used to describe PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is most commonly referenced, in my experience, to soldiers after having been in a shooting war. Nowadays, Iraq and Afghanistan are the poster children, but many people came home from Vietnam with it. No doubt many came home from Korea and World War II with it as well, although the syndrome wasn’t recognized in the same way then.

Some of these countries have ongoing trauma, but out of the remaining ones, I’m sure German, Japanese, Russian soldiers came home with PTSD. Vietnamese and Koreans never had to leave home to get it.

So I don’t want to equate my feelings with those of soldiers – of any nation – who have spent months or years in war zones, killing people, seeing their friends killed, and nearly being killed themselves. But the other day, as I was driving on a two lane road at dusk with oncoming traffic going 50 or 60 miles an hour, as I was, I had a little twitch. And that image of Zach’s broken body flashed before my eyes again and I for some reason thought,’ PTSD.’

I haven’t been to a therapy session since last spring. I haven’t been to a good therapy session since Dr Perry left in January. I had a phone session with Linda S that was not satisfying and inconclusive. See my posts on ‘Goals’. I don’t think I will start up again with either although I have had ideas of trying to contact Dr Perry and do some kind of long distance therapy. So far, no action on that.

During the last month, as I was often going to work during regular rush hour, there were times when I felt myself getting extra twitchy while driving, while watching other people do really stupid things on the road. Except for the other day, all the driving I’ve done here in Washington has been fear free. I picked up my rental car today and drove up to a music store about an hour north of Duvall, then came home on a state highway that was mostly two lane. Perhaps I was distracted by having a new car to drive, or by the scenery, but I had no flashbacks. I do often take note when I am driving at 50 – 55 miles an hour of how fast the trees are going by. Sometimes I think of someone hitting my car at that speed.

I think the day will come when I will go back to Baton Rouge and stand along that road and time the cars leaving that intersection. Jake sold the house and lives in Las Vegas now. Micah and Julie are still down there so I will no doubt ask them about it again. The second anniversary of that awful night is next week but I’ve already decided that I will only celebrate Zach’s birthday any more, not his death day.

a happier Zach story

I thought I might have details on this in my own journals but a trip down memory lane found only a note that we went out for dinner. A dedicated journal writer I’m not, although in fairness who could have guessed how precious those encounters would become.

I was surprised to find out that I didn’t go to Louisiana to visit Zach for almost three years after I went with him down there in 2011 on his move from Oregon. Of course we saw each other once or twice each year in either Georgia or California.

So it was February 2014 and he was in the midst of trying to find a doctoral program. He had driven by himself to Lawrence, Kansas in January through snowstorms and now he was going to have an interview in Tallahassee at Florida State. I drove with him and we went on to Georgia to visit Jeremy afterwards.

Anyway, the night I arrived in Baton Rouge we went out for dinner to a sports bar he knew. They had an order counter near the front and after we ordered the girl asked Zach his name so they could call us when it was ready. He told her, ‘Roger’, and started walking to the table. I looked at him with a question and he said he just liked to use different names in those places.

A few minutes later they called out ‘Roger’ & we went and got our food. Zach’s quirky humor!

reality

Well I had a couple of doses of reality, as one might say, today. Why would one bit of reality be more significant than another? As one of my science fiction authors said in another context, reality is just a shared hallucination. True enough, but some things are more important than others.

Reality first came to my attention this morning about 6:45 when I woke up but that isn’t what I’m writing about. I had received an email yesterday from the Assistant District Attorney in Baton Rouge telling me that he had finished his investigation of Zach’s death and wanted to discuss his conclusions with me over the phone. I responded telling him that this morning was a good time and he called me about an hour ago.

I spent yesterday evening steeling myself for the news that there would be no criminal prosecution and that in fact is what the gentleman had to say. I do not use the word lightly. This man, who I will not here name, was a gentleman from start to finish. This in addition to being completely professional. He was very familiar in our conversation with all aspects of the evidence and circumstances.

Bottom line: he felt that the driver was ‘negligent’ but not ‘criminally negligent’, thus there would be no charges. I’m not going to go into all of his reasons now but they were all good enough.

The ADA was emphatic in telling me that he would be happy to talk to me at any time; answer any questions, etc. I told him how much of the rather fine points I was raising were on the basis of one reading of the police report months ago, that I haven’t been able to look at it with anything close to the objective eye needed for legalistic thinking. He reminded me that the statute of limitations for criminal action is 4 years so there is time.

Towards the end of our conversation he asked what I did for a living. This was after I commented that I could only admire people like him and the police Traffic Homicide Unit who faced death and other horrible things daily and didn’t go crazy. I told him worked at the Symphony Hall in San Francisco. He said how great it must be to work with such a good orchestra and I had to agree. Then I told him how Sarah has been playing with that orchestra as a sub since last fall and that really started the waterworks. I held most of it in until I got off the phone.

After I calmed down I got in the shower and got my second dose of reality. The shower drain was backing up! I choose to interpret this as Zach telling me that I have to press on.