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The Gurdon Times
By Jerry Moore
Posted Sep. 10, 2008 at 12:01 AM
Only those who have been pushed to the brink of desperation can fathom what drives people to commit unthinkable acts.
Relatives and acquaintances of Michael Long said the Wheaton resident was a loving family man and a good neighbor. How, then, do we make sense of the fact that Long held 12 people hostage in a bank last week before taking his own life?
Long lured a Wheaton police officer Friday to Wheaton Bank & Trust Co. with a bogus report of a hit-and-run accident. He then grabbed the officer from behind, threatened the officer with a knife and eventually took the officer’s gun. Long then ran into the bank and initiated a standoff with police, which lasted nearly three hours.
The incident ended with Long killing himself. But during the standoff he released most of the hostages and even inquired about the well-being of the officer he had disarmed, who suffered superficial wounds while he struggled with Long.
Long’s father, Melvin, told a reporter over the weekend that his son had been on antidepressants, but that he didn’t know if his son was on his medication at the time of the incident. He said his son didn’t speak of his personal problems but must have been facing extreme pressures to do something like this.
It boggles the mind to consider that a decent person who adored his family and cared about others could engage in such behavior. For many people in Wheaton, it is undoubtedly unsettling to know that one of their neighbors would create such trauma for the whole town.
It is good that law enforcement from Wheaton, surrounding towns, DuPage County and the FBI responded so quickly to the crisis and contained the danger. We also should be grateful that the officer disarmed by Long sustained only minor injuries.
But sadly, Long’s family has suffered the greatest loss. He leaves behind a wife, three children, and many other relatives and friends.
Perhaps the only thing we can take away from this incident is to make sure we do everything we can to reach out to loved ones who may be troubled. As we see with Long, all the love and concern in the world won’t work with some people. However, encouraging those close to us to open up is worth the effort.
They might resent our prying into their personal lives. But if the alternative is to watch them put themselves and others in peril, butting in is definitely the right decision.
Jerry Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog, Suburban Shoutout, can be found at www.mysuburbanlife.com.