When Lives are Taken, as in the Waffle House Killings,
the Damage Lasts for Years.

by Dorothy Marcic

I’ve eaten many pecan waffles or scrambled eggs with crisp, brown shredded hash browns at Waffle Houses during the 17 years I lived in Nashville. Never once did I think I had to look up from the Formica table in the booth of the red Naugahyde cushions to glance around for an automatic weapon. It never occurred to me in such a peaceful yet bustling setting with food so many people can’t seem to live without.

Four people dead, several more injured in a Nashville Waffle House. This seemed so improbable, and yet also not quite unexpected. Since Jan. 1, there have been 155 mass shootings in the U.S. Should we be surprised? But how many times have I read we’ve all become numb to the violence and deaths?

Yet I am quite certain not everyone is numb. Not the survivors and the family of those killed. They will never become numb.

My uncle, LaVerne Stordock, was murdered at 2:15 a.m. on Sunday, March 1, 1970, outside Madison. His second wife confessed and spent 11 months in a mental hospital, evidently with weekends off, and was sent home in less than a year, completely cured of chronic paranoid schizophrenia. Forget, for now, that such a condition is not curable, according to six mental health experts I consulted. And let’s not focus on her getting all my uncle’s assets, including his life insurance — with double indemnity.

What I want to tell you is how those left behind never really get over the loss. During my life, a number of family members have died, including uncles, parents, brothers, and more. If someone dies from cancer, or even insulin shock (as one uncle did), these are painful exits leaving all of us reeling. However, when a person you dearly love is murdered, the suffering is compounded exponentially. My uncle was at the height of his career as an elite investigator for the state of Wisconsin, he was healthy and full of life. And he was only 44 when a single bullet hit his left temple, and the right side of his head exploded all over the bedroom walls and floor.

We all expect the destabilizing grief that descends on us, and then we somehow think, eventually, we will be able to move on. And we do. Until one day I see a man who looks likes like my uncle might have, and I break down and can barely breathe. I’ve seen obituaries for decades of people born in the same year as my uncle and feel robbed of his presence all this time. I see a police officer in the kind of uniform my uncle wore earlier in his career, and I cannot speak. Or someone teases me like my uncle Vernie liked to do, and I am transported to that world called Can’t Get Over Losing You. My cousin, Shannon, from the first marriage, thought about her father every single day, but could barely talk about it for decades and wonders what he would have looked like all these years later.

It’s not only the hundreds who’ve been killed, but also the thousands of family members, young and old, who will always remember the exact moment they were told and will never have to wonder where they were at that second.

— Journal Sentinel, April 27, 2018