Our local paper has a weekly column about neighborhood issues. I am so angry about the column that ran today. I will paste it below since it is hard to link to this paper and then comment on it below.
When masked men burst into the Valli Hi Liquor store on Memorial Day 2001 and shot to death owner Hyung Lee, neighbors rallied around his widow, Han.
Some mowed the grass for the South Korean immigrant, who witnessed the slaying of her husband and was threatened with death along with their 16-year-old son.
In the following weeks, neighbors offered to do chores around the house, such as fixing the sprinkler system and repairing the garage door, recognizing the grieving Han was under severe stress trying to learn the business and work the store six days a week while raising her three boys.
But five years later, some residents in the Gatehouse Village neighborhood of Briargate are frustrated with the condition of Lee’s house.
One of Lee’s garage doors is broken. The yard is patchy weeds and mostly dead grass, unlike the tidy lawns of many neighboring houses. A washer and dryer have sat for years in the backyard, visible from the shopping center across Union Boulevard.
“The house is a disaster,” said Jose Carrington, who lives around the corner. “The yard is terrible. There is trash in the yard. Weeds. Cars parked on the grass.
“It’s terrible. And the whole neighborhood feels the same way.”
It’s so bad neighbors have moved away in frustration.
Current and former neighbors who were interviewed expressed sadness for Lee and the trauma she suffered. They were sympathetic that she endured the trials of three men arrested in the crime.
Some shook their heads in disbelief when one of the men, originally convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, won a new trial. And, like her, they were mortified when a jury in November acquitted the suspect and set him free.
They can’t imagine what it must be like for Lee, having to return to the scene of the murder, day after day, working long hours at the liquor store to support her family.
She gave a glimpse of her life at the sentencing of one of the killers: “This is not just a nightmare,” she wrote in comments to the judge. “It is our horrendous reality.”
Walt Damewood lived next door to the Lees for several years and recalled the horror of the events.
“It was so difficult for her,” Damewood said. “She was running the store; working long hours. The only day she had off was Sunday. And she slept most of the day.”
Meanwhile, Damewood said, the house deteriorated as the boys, now ages 13, 18 and 21, started causing problems in the neighborhood. Damewood said he had confrontations with the boys and their friends over noise and other issues.
“The kids went a little crazy,” he said. “Things started getting worse and it got to the point it felt a little on the dangerous side.”
So he sold his house and moved in 2003. At least three other neighbors, who declined to be identified, soon followed Damewood out of Gatehouse Village.
“It was frustrating,” Damewood said. “We loved our home. And our neighbors. We still have a lot of friends there.
“We tried everything to help her. It was so difficult. But the house was deteriorating. She was having a hard time controlling her kids. It was so hard to talk to her because English was her second language. We really felt bad. But we had to move.”
Carrington, however, doesn’t want to move. He wants to see the house cleaned up, the junk hauled away and the yard landscaped.
News of the neighbors’ comments shocked Lee, when contacted at her liquor store.
“I’m going to clean up the house in two weeks,” she said. “I called a fix-it man.”
In fact, the very next morning the front yard of the house had been transformed by Lee and her sons. She promised the garage door would be fixed soon, along with other repairs.
Still, she was surprised anyone paid so much attention to her house.
“People called the newspaper?” she said.
She spoke in a soft voice as she recalled the days after the shooting and the years spent in court, watching the trials.
“I had never worked before,” she said. “I had to learn the business.”
The demands and stress of the business caused her to neglect her home.
“It’s been very hard,” she said. “I’m working all the time here. Six days a week from 9 in the morning until night.
“I don’t know how to start the mower. My husband always did that.”
When Damewood and the other neighbors moved away, her situation got worse. “They used to help me,” she said. “The new neighbors, they never even talk to me.”
Carrington said he was aware the family had suffered a tragedy. But he had never talked to Lee or gotten involved. And to him, it’s no excuse for years of neglect.
“I feel sorry for them,” Carrington said. “But the house needs to be kept up.”
First of all – I cannot believe they ran this column. This poor woman has to be mortified.
What really angers me is the I think this article suggests that she should be “over” her husband’s murder after five years and should now be perfectly able to take care of her house.
These neighbors…..I gues they have never had anything tragic happen in their lives. They don’t understand the paralization that can come from such a horrible event like this. If they can’t stand the way her house looks, why not continue to offer their help. No – they are just standing in judgment and moaning about how their life is ruined because they have to look at her house. How self-centered can they possibly be.
I am just disgusted.
Here is the other thing. This could be us in a few years. Until recently we had weeds and dirt in part of our front lawn. Our back yard is half weeds and dirt. Our house needs to be painted and there are rotting boards. We are fully aware of all of this but all of our energy and much of our finances are spent elsewhere. I don’t know if any of our neighbors are saying these things about us – I hope not. If so – they can kiss my ass – That or trade places with me and have it so they are the ones with a kid with cancer and see if they can do a better job.