The summer before my junior year of high school, my family moved from Germany to Maryland. My father’s job was in Washington, but he and my mom decided it would be better if we lived outside of the busy D.C. area. We settled into a wonderful neighborhood on the Chesapeake Bay full of families with teenagers to hang out with. One family in particular stood out among the crowd; they lived in the biggest, most extravagant home on the pointe and had two awesome kids, one of whom was a super hot, blonde, sailing hunk. Lucky for me we attended the same school, and armed with my brand new driver’s license, it was soon my “job” to pick him and his sister up every day. I was such a nervous wreck with this gorgeous 10th grader in my car that I actually backed over his mailbox on the very first day I came to pick them up.
Yeah, it was a great moment. 😏
It became clear over time that this boy’s parents were hands down, the stars of our town. The dad was wildly successful and as handsome as his wife was gorgeous. They were active and friendly, involved in their kids’ lives as well as in the greater community. So you can imagine everyone’s horror when the fire engines came storming into our neighborhood one warm, summer night to put out a massive fire at their home. By the time I ran up the street, the entire house was fully engulfed in flames… I had never seen anything like it. The folks next door said no one was home, so at least we could all breathe a sigh of relief.
Except that wasn’t quite true, as the family dog was later discovered to have died in the blaze. An investigation eventually uncovered that the dad himself had set his own home on fire in an effort to collect the insurance. He had waited for a week-end when his wife took the kids to visit family, and had probably left the dog inside to die so that it would look more like a believable accident that happened while he was out.
Needless to say his wife and kids, as well as the entire community, were in utter shock as these horrifying revelations slowly came to light. This man was a wonderful spouse, neighbor and father. He was caring and helpful, funny and intelligent. He was so many great things…and then he committed this unimaginable, heartless crime. He went to jail about the same time I went to college, so I never heard what ultimately happened to him or his family.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people spend decades building their lives and reputations only to burn everything to the ground in a spectacular fire-storm of self serving actions. I’m sure we can all make lists of the politicians, businessmen, athletes and yes, even preachers whose minds seem to have melted in the heat of their own sense of entitlement, ambition, greed and invincibility. I guess that’s the caution I’d share with every kid as they head off to college to pursue their dreams: