Austin seeks peace amid the grief

Austin seems to be back at peace after 19 days of horror.Awaiting an elevator in downtown on a recent morning,...

Posted: Mar 26, 2018 11:03 PM
Updated: Mar 26, 2018 11:04 PM

Austin seems to be back at peace after 19 days of horror.

Awaiting an elevator in downtown on a recent morning, I heard a woman joke about how a child's lunchbox left at a school bus stop set off a police scramble to determine the little box's unknown contents. "That's something my little guy would do!" said another woman, and nervous laughter burst from both of them.

But even while Mark Anthony Conditt was wreaking havoc with a series of bombs around the city this month, causing fear and devastating pain for families affected, Austin was gritting its teeth and determined to keep its normal routine.

Conditt -- who blew himself up last week, police said -- first struck on March 2, our unofficial Texas Independence Day, when we make much of our independent spirit. The Driskell Hotel still held a whiskey tasting, and the next morning self-styled Texas patriots gathered for a parade, followed by a somber ceremony at the Texas State Cemetery.

Distressingly, as South by Southwest's festivals were drawing their usual hundreds of thousands of people -- techies, rockers, political figures, television and film producers-from March 9 through March 18, he struck three more times. Against this grim backdrop, we were determined to keep going and not give in to fear. We held a golf tournament here, two rounds of the NCAA college women's basketball tournament, and a rodeo.

Worries about bombings played incongruously against the events of all kinds that sprawled through our streets-the events that create a joyous, civic sweetness in a city that is traditionally safe and open.

As far as I know, only one SXSW event -- "The Roots and Friends Jam" -- was canceled, and because of a bomb threat. Police arrested Trevor Weldon Ingram, 26, on a charge of terrorist threat, a 3rd degree felony. Bud Light, sponsor of the event, canceled the event.

Life went on even as details came out about the victims -- but for many an underlying worry began to seep in.

According to police, Conditt's first victim was Anthony Stephan House, 39, killed on March 2 when he lifted a package left on his front porch.

At first, police thought it was a drug deal gone bad. But House was a law-abiding citizen, father of an 8-year-old girl, a construction worker and money manager. And House's death didn't occur amid the gatherings, so it seemed strange and isolated.

Ten days later Draylen Mason, 17, a talented musician who had been accepted to the University of Texas Butler School of Music (and Oberlin as well), died in a bomb blast at his home.

Both victims were black and lived on Austin's east side. Both picked up packages from their front doors. In all, three people, including Conditt, were killed and five injured in explosions that continued until the killer's death. Conditt is believed to be responsible for six bombs all told.

His actions also were responsible for a renewal of racial tension: City police first speculated that House's death may have been related to a drug deal -- with House possibly mistaken for another man. Community leaders have asked: Would the possibility of a drug deal been invoked at all if House were white instead of black? And if the killer had been black instead of white, would the police chief have referred to him as a "challenged young man"?

Austin Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said no motive might ever be found. The killer left a video taking responsibility for all of the bombings. But there were no racist or terrorist rantings, Manley said.

After Mason's killing, 100 agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and 400 FBI agents were working on the case, according to US Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security; "the biggest bombing investigation since the Boston bombings," said McCaul, whose district includes parts of Austin. "We brought an end to what was a nightmare for Austin."

If Conditt didn't daunt this city of nearly 1 million, he did create new concern about that simplest of acts, sending packages through the company's facilities. One package exploded in a sorting facility in Schertz, injuring a FedEx worker. The other was seized.

Now our city is left to grieve for Anthony House and Draylen Mason, and for the injured. We are shaken and eager to regain ourselves.

We like having FedEx around. We feel the same way about UPS, Amazon and the US Postal Service workers, as people do across the nation. These are the hard-working men and women who bring us the goods we purchase online and elsewhere.

The rumble of delivery trucks is as familiar as the sound of music on our streets. The Austin bomber roughed up that familiar image, even if just for a moment.

But it seems like most of our anxiety is gone. And that's a relief.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 318894

Reported Deaths: 5561
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion43391855
Lake27599462
Allen18363299
Elkhart17474226
St. Joseph17071234
Hamilton13376169
Vanderburgh9839121
Tippecanoe880629
Porter844886
Johnson6556169
Hendricks6267158
Vigo618187
Monroe542850
Clark522877
Madison5153122
Delaware5014103
LaPorte474695
Kosciusko468540
Howard357977
Warrick329872
Floyd324978
Bartholomew323563
Wayne318074
Marshall308146
Cass302631
Grant282050
Noble261546
Hancock260355
Henry252837
Boone248754
Dubois242931
Dearborn222631
Jackson222534
Morgan215543
Knox189720
Shelby189556
Gibson189426
Clinton182121
DeKalb181632
Lawrence179748
Adams171022
Wabash168121
Miami166614
Daviess160144
Steuben150713
Fayette150034
Jasper147413
Montgomery146627
Harrison145524
LaGrange145031
Whitley140814
Ripley138515
Huntington130910
Decatur128243
Wells127930
Putnam127828
White127522
Clay126523
Randolph126121
Posey124116
Jefferson122916
Scott112320
Greene104653
Jay100713
Sullivan99216
Starke94021
Jennings88714
Fulton86419
Spencer8588
Perry83721
Fountain8078
Washington7837
Franklin71327
Carroll69613
Orange69028
Vermillion6444
Owen6317
Tipton58927
Parke5886
Newton56912
Rush5658
Blackford54012
Pike51619
Pulaski41115
Martin3645
Benton3553
Brown3514
Crawford3031
Union2752
Switzerland2605
Warren2542
Ohio2337
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 382743

Reported Deaths: 6274
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin51161671
Cuyahoga37222743
Hamilton30493372
Montgomery20518236
Butler15199148
Lucas14566417
Summit13933327
Stark9193206
Warren841976
Mahoning7530300
Lake710067
Lorain6690106
Clermont593651
Delaware572537
Licking564577
Trumbull5584147
Fairfield554464
Greene538066
Clark5218101
Allen494989
Marion476759
Medina471657
Wood4598107
Miami437568
Pickaway404048
Portage358972
Columbiana357698
Tuscarawas342667
Richland328539
Wayne327394
Mercer296047
Muskingum252510
Hancock245940
Ross244559
Auglaize236435
Darke232560
Erie230268
Putnam229449
Ashtabula228354
Geauga211851
Scioto200616
Union19668
Shelby194017
Lawrence193039
Athens19134
Seneca182919
Belmont170229
Madison163119
Sandusky157729
Preble156521
Huron155519
Defiance144823
Holmes140439
Logan133517
Knox131718
Fulton128726
Jefferson128613
Crawford126817
Washington125227
Ottawa124530
Clinton109115
Williams10799
Ashland107825
Highland103718
Brown10135
Henry101323
Hardin99719
Champaign9825
Van Wert97318
Jackson96212
Fayette92717
Morrow9202
Guernsey89314
Coshocton85215
Perry82912
Adams80313
Pike7661
Gallia76513
Wyandot73217
Paulding66511
Hocking64516
Noble62224
Carroll48810
Meigs39612
Monroe32321
Morgan2685
Vinton2246
Harrison2193
Unassigned00
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