Fun a Day Reseda – Day 8: Looking at the Beast

Headline announcing arrest of Mary Ann Henderson's murdererThere are aspects of my Fun a Day Reseda project that are not fun.

As I work on my revisions for The Ghosts of Reseda High, I’m rereading the accounts of Mary Ann Henderson’s murder. I won’t include the specifics in the book (and I’m taking out what references to it that are there), and I’m not linking to the articles here. But to understand the depth of this tragedy, I had to look at the horror of it. I had to look at the beast.

It’s harder for me now as a father to look at Mary Ann’s murder. Nothing is more horrible for parents than to bury their own child. It’s a perspective I didn’t have as a teenager when her death took place, but it is something I can understand now. I could feel the grief in Mary Ann’s father as he told the Daily News during the trial in 1977:

Watching hasn’t been easy…I’ve been here for every minute of it. It may look like I’m taking it all right, but inside, it’s unbelievable. Sometimes in that courtroom, I’m listening to things, it’s just unbelievable…We realize she’s not coming back, but we can’t put her things in the house away…

The beast isn’t just the brutality, but also the pain the brutality causes — a pain that never goes away.

We like art to be beautiful and reflect the positive aspects of human nature. But to appreciate the beautiful and uplifting, we have to confront the ugly and the painful. We have to face brutality and suffering. To feel hope, we must understand despair. If we want to see beauty, we have to look at the beast.