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October 23, 2010

Terrorism close to home

It was quite a spectacle on Thursday as I watched a local mall ablaze. The Galleria Mall is a scant 5 miles away but the plume of black smoke was easily visible from my office window. I was surprised to hear that this fire made national news until I started reading/watching the coverage.

You can easily search for many articles and news clips about the fire but here is the short version.

The mall was deliberately set on fire by a mentally disturbed 23 year old black man named  Alexander Corney Piggee . He entered Game Stop wearing the uniform of a thug (a black hoodie) and carrying a backpack. He talked to the employee and then started a fire. The fire was initially  put out by sprinkler systems but firemen could not go in and investigate the area because of a potential bomb threat made by Piggee. It was unknown at the time if the initial fire was set by the homemade incendiary device or by other means. The firemen played it safe and let the police go in and look for Piggee's backpack that was identified by the Game Stop employee. By the time the robot was sent in to find the backpack, the smoldering fire flashed in the attic space of the mall where sprinklers cannot reach. Much of a section of the 1.5 million square foot mall was destroyed.

I started to get angry at the news coverage for a few reasons, the most obvious that some punk burned down one of the nicest malls in the area. He talked to the Game Stop employee, Dan Kellar, for a few minutes and told him that he was going to blow up the mall. To his credit, the employee tried to talk Piggee out of it and then ran like a Kennedy from a car accident when Piggee brandished a Bic. The employee claims he smelled a chemical, like kerosene, coming from the backpack. Piggee asked some strange questions during the banter and asked if the employee believed in God and had kids.

There were reports of Piggee having a gun but that was only after the Game Stop employee fled the store and grabbed Paul Blart to intervene. Piggee barricaded himself in the store, set a fire and ran out. He was apprehended by police and is being held under arson charges with no bail. 

What irritates me, from the beginning of this story, is that Kellar didn't do anything but talk to this psychopath. Don't get me wrong, unnecessarily risking one's life for a store full of merchandise that doesn't belong to you is stupid. However, it appears that there was plenty of opportunity for Kellar to blind side Piggee or to do something besides run away when Piggee finally pulled out something to substantiate the claim that he was a terrorist. I am appalled at Kellar's cowardice, but not surprised. Our society breeds cowards by the boat loads as social tolerance and diversity are rammed down our throats. They are the "Yeah, but..." crowd. I challenge you to search for this story and see how many news outlets report the race of Piggee. The Galleria Mall is in a well-to-do area (predominantly white) and I would imagine a black male wearing a hoodiee pull over his head set off a few internal alarms. Kellar was probably on high alert and seeing a lighter only accelerated the fight or flight reflex. But I digress...

There are stories of regular people performing heroic acts because they are sick of seeing our way of life decay because of the lack of an individual moral compass. A few immediately come to mind- Mark Bingham, the "Let's Roll hero on Flight 93 and, more recently, Fresno resident Victor Perez who cutoff a truck that matched an Amber Alert description. Because of Perez's selfless act an 8- year old girl was saved. In my opinion, Kellar could have joined these people. 

I was also irritated at the comments of people who condemned the firefighters for not charging into the mall, regardless of the unknown threat of a bomb, and saving the merchandise. My brother-in-law is a firefighter for El Dorado County and these comments hit close to home for me. What people forget is that firemen have lives, families, kids, homes, etc. also. You can easily add any civil servant in this category like the police, EMT, etc. But these people do not care about the personal element of these servants and some even believe it is firefighters duty to protect "stuff". I vehemently disagree- they protect human life, including their own and their fellow firemen, policemen, etc. Stuff is at the bottom of the list and anyone who puts it higher needs to have some priority setting counseling, along with a good horsewhipping.

Most of the interviews show people upset and sad- because they don't know what they are going to do for the holiday shopping season that is rapidly approaching. Reminds me of the Jim Carrey version of The Grinch when he gives a great monologue after running his finger down the side of a brand new car, leaving a nice loud and noticable scratch.

That's what it's all about, isn't it? That's what it's always been *about*. Gifts, gifts... gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts. You wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I'm saying? In your *garbage*. I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump. And the avarice... 
The Grinch: The avarice never ends! "I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue." Look, I don't wanna make waves, but this *whole* Christmas season is 
The Grinch: stupid, stupid, stupid! 
The interviews with Piggee paint him as a mentally disturbed victim of the system- kicked out of his home a few months ago, alone, desperate. Of course this act of arson came to a total shock to anyone who knew him. Piggee's mother kicked him out of the house because he was old enough to be on his own. This motherly act of kicking the bird out of the nest is admirable and necessary in life- but not when you r son has been to multiple hospitals for psychiatric evaluations! And now we enter into the victim realm of dodging personal responsibility as Piggee was abandoned by friends and family. I guess Obama's anti-bullying message was just a tad too late. Now the mother wonders if there was something she could have done to prevent this tragedy. Uh, duuuuuh!

Piggee is now under investigation for starting another fire at a Wal-Mart earlier that day. Nice.

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