The Austin Bomber Lived in My Town
Some of you might have followed the story of the Austin bomber and then moved on to the next news cycle. It’s taken a bit longer for me to process it because he lived in my town, he attended my church and he was homeschooled. (I’m homeschooling my kids currently.)
For a full timeline click here: Timeline Austin bombings.
On March 2, the first explosion killed a 39-year-old black man, Anthony Stephan. When the first bomb went off, my clients at the gym and I were talking. Some thought it was a terrorist, others thought it was related to a drug bust and some thought it was a hate crime.
Ten days later a second device killed a 17-year-old black student, Draylen Mason. Hours later there was a third blast injuring an older Hispanic woman. It was really starting to look like a hate crime. My one client knows the older woman’s cousin. She said she had no idea why she was targeted.
Friends and family who lived in different states started texting me to see if I was near any of the bomb locations. One relative told me that he knew for sure that the bomber was probably a liberal Democrat funded by George Soros. (He’s into conspiracy theories.)
On March 18, another bomb went off, injuring two white men. The device had a trip wire. So was this a copycat bomber? Was this done to throw the police off? Or was race not really a motive at all and this person was just a psychopath who liked killing people?
March 20, a device goes off at FedEx in San Antonio, injuring a person with a package addressed to Austin.
Around this point my father-in-law, who recently returned from India, tells me he’s sending me a package, and I’m like, “Please don’t.” The last thing I need to see on my doorstep is a package. I told him to hold off until they caught the bomber, but he said I shouldn’t be afraid of terrorists.
Also on March 20 a device went off at a Goodwill near my friend’s neighborhood. She drove past the intersection as the police were arriving, but this one turned out to be a copycat. Great. So glad to see other crazy people inspired to do bad things.
Then on March 21, the police cornered the bomber, who chose to blow himself up on the I-35 off Old Settlers road. I drove past the exact spot and hours later there were still a ton of police. My daughter took a video with my phone (she hasn’t learned how to zoom in yet.)
As details emerged my friend Regina texted me, “Dude! He lives near you!” Indeed.
Pflugerville, Texas is a suburb of Austin and honestly is a great place to live. FYI – the “p” is silent, so it sounds like Flugerville. We’re a mixed demographic here – 45.8% White, 27.3% Hispanic, 14.7% Black, 9.9% Asian, 1.3% Other. Austin and its suburbs are known to be more liberal than the rest of Texas. We’re like a blue dot in a sea of red.
Pflugerville has about 53,000 people. When we first moved here it was very small-town; lots of farms and open fields. Over the past eight years though the city has sprawled into the neighborhood. Lots of homes, apartments and retail centers have sprouted up.
The homes are affordable, the parks are beautiful and the people here have always been friendly. No one would have thought someone so sinister could be living among us.
The bomber, Mark Anthony Conditt, was a 23-year-old who lived in Pflugerville. In a 25 minute confession found on his phone, he referred to himself as ‘a psychopath’ and showed no remorse. A blog he wrote for a civics class showed that he was conservative leaning (against gay marriage, for example), so I guess my relative’s conspiracy theory about George Soros was wrong.
I read reports that he went to Austin Stone Community Church, where I go, but that’s not exactly true. According to the people my husband spoke to at church this weekend, the last time Conditt went there was apparently 2012 and only a few times, but that never made it into the media accounts. The church, by the way, is a regular church. They don’t preach hate or politics. Even during the 2016 election various preachers said in effect, we’re here to celebrate Jesus, not debate politics. And after Charlottesville they had a sermon saying that absolutely, unequivocally hate and white supremacy was not Christian; God loves all people.
The bomber was also homeschooled. Great. So then some of my friends/family felt the need to tell me that the bomber was homeschooled, therefore homeschooling must be causing anti-social behavior. To which I retorted, “Yes, the public school that turned out the Parkland shooter is clearly doing a much better job with socializing students.”
The day that the bomber blew himself up, some of my friends, but not all, pulled their kids from the public school, since the police said there may be other bombs out there. His home was just a few blocks away from the elementary school and who knew what kind of vendetta he had?
The whole situation is so disturbing. I began thinking about the troubled young men who seem so lost that they felt killing innocent people was their best option, whether it was the shooting at Pulse Night Club, any number of school shootings or the bomber who lived in my neighborhood. His family seemed shocked and mortified that he killed people. I didn’t know them, but from what I’ve read they were trying to be good parents. I can’t imagine what they are feeling.
And I kept thinking about the victims – the people who now had injuries from something as innocuous as opening a package. How will that impact them for the rest of their lives? That 17-year-old kid was on his way to college. Now he’s dead, and for what? What must his family be feeling, to see their son with so much potential murdered for nothing? Their lives are forever altered.
If these bombers/shooters hate themselves and life so much why don’t they seek help? Or limit their actions to their own life? Bad people are going to do bad things and in this particular case I don’t know what, if anything, could have been done differently, but it doesn’t change the anger and confusion we feel as a community.
Tomorrow I’ll go back to blogging about fitness and nutrition like usual. Today, I just needed to get my thoughts out of my head.
Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, published author, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!
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