The near constant stream of news flowing from a farm in Solebury Township has revealed the jarring story of an apparent multiple murder that took the lives of four young men.
An army of twittering journalists have set up camp at a nearby former pleasure boat dealership, and the “bucolic” countryside has been rhetorically “shattered” in news story after story.
In the process, Solebury has become an unwitting backdrop to a nationally televised tragedy, and relief from the usual Washington-based partisan sniping provided by the predictable puffery of local news is no longer dependable. Like it or not, the rest of the country moved into our living rooms this week, and while none of the boys caught up in the horrible events are local sons, they’re close to home.
Adding to the emotional impact on the community is the unsettling, omnipresent sense of being center stage at the biggest news story in memory, one that at times has turned a peaceful section of Route 202 into a scene from “Jaws.” Most challenging for many is how to translate the inescapable media coverage for children, and to answer the inevitable questions about why bad things can happen in beautiful places. And at the heart of much local angst lies the realization that four young people for whatever reason will not have a chance to live out their days, and that we must grieve for their parents’ loss.
What does it all mean? Can anything be learned from what happened? How do we move on?
“When something dreadful happens that can’t be changed or taken back, the focus should not be on getting past it, but rather on how to live with it,” observed Dr. Katherine Dahlsgaard, clinical director of the Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“Protecting your children from hearing bad things is an unrealistic and impossible expectation to have,” she continued. “Bad things will happen in the world, and kids will hear about them. The goal is not to prevent your kids from having feelings in response, but rather to personally model having those painful feelings and functioning anyway — and that’s all adults can ask of themselves, as well.”
Dahlsgaard offered specific advice on communicating with kids in the wake of this week’s high-profile tragedy.
“Wait for your child to bring it up, and if they don’t, you don’t have to,” she said. “Answer questions succinctly and honestly. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I don’t know.’ When parents say ‘I don’t know’ to kids calmly, they’re modeling how to live with uncertainty.”
“Do not dwell, and do not let your child dwell,” added Dahlsgaard. “Most kids will not be able to understand the horror and gravity of the situation, so keep it short and succinct, and be okay with not having all the answers.”
Julie Ziff, a licensed clinical social worker at the Center for Psychology and Counseling in Doylestown, echoed her colleague’s sentiment on the popular concept of “moving on.”
“I don’t think you ever really move on, you just add something to your view of the world,” she said.
“It takes on a core basic need of safety, and when it happens so close to home, it hits harder. You’ve got to let kids talk about it. Pay attention to their routines, and keep them doing things. Being active in community and doing things to help can create a sense of community for them. You don’t want them growing up to be afraid of the world. Empower them.”
Solebury Supervisors Kevin Morrissey and Helen Tai also shared their perspectives.
“This terrible event will be remembered for some time,” said Morrissey in a statement. “However, the work, goals and strong relationships that have existed in this community for 315 years will remain.”
“Like my neighbors, I am deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of the four young men at a Solebury farm,” Helen Tai said. “No words can adequately express the sorrow and heartbreak we feel for these boys and their families. Even though they are not our children, we grieve for them.”
“We live in this beautiful place, but sometimes your bubble needs to be popped,” observed Rev. Michael Ruk, pastor of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Solebury. “Maybe events like this connect us with reality, which is not as pretty as we’d like it to be. It teaches us about the sacredness of life.”
“It’s easy to go down the path of despair, but it’s our own free will that makes us decide how to act,” Ruk continued. “I’d like to stress hope, because we can easily forget about that — hope that humanity’s goodness can overcome evil.”
Pink says the imprisoned are “victims”. Another brilliant post.
All of the victims, the dead and now the imprisoned are our children. Just because they didn’t live in Solebury or New Hope, doesn’t need to be pointed out and this community has a lot of work to do. One of the things I think must happen from now on is that every time some one reports to the police that they hear gun shots, and they must be reported, the Solebury police must investigate. There are way too many so called hunters that are well armed in Solebury. These idiots think they live in PA Game Land! They do not. Ban hunting in Solebury. The Solebury Massacre could easily happen again and future cases could go unsolved.
You guys are waaaaaay too dramatic. Stop personalizing things!!!! Unless it affects you personally go on with YOUR life.
Dear Betsy, It would be unwise of us to take your advice. We can not continue to live in a cave as you are suggesting. Our society has failed all 6 of those kids. The broken hearts are wide spread. Bucks needs a massive mental health response. Solebury needs to ban hunting. Recreational pot needs to become legal in the state. This crime affects us personally whether we like it or not. We will no doubt go on with our lives, but we can be compassionate towards the families and friends who lost a loved one. The Solebury Massacre says a lot about our society and you are apart of it.
Thank you for this Charlie. As the father of two sons, ages 8 and 9, this story has left me so upset.. I feel so sad for these boys, their families, and our community. In saying this, I’m including all the boys and all the families, not just the victims.
As a parent, I’ve struggled with how to talk about this with our boys so that they understand what happened. I’m also attempting to effect what they take away from this experience. This is not an thing to do. I appreciate the professionals advice. Thanks again.
Finally, I wantto add that I’m disappointed, that even now, with this tragedy, there are negative posts here. So unnecessary.
It’s that instant gratification thing prompting some comments here. This is not a 60 minute whodunit made for TV. This is real life and we do not get all the details on demand. I think we know the basics . . . drug deal gone bad and some unsuspecting kids not using common sense. Keep at it, Charlie. It will all unfold eventually. Thanks for the good advice about dealing with this tragedy going forward.
Hitting To Close To Home. Let us not forget that it was sometime in the middle of March 2015 when two New Hope Solebury students were arrested regarding a drug deal that went bad. Check out the archives of the Bucks County Herald for March 12, 2015. ” NH-S students charged in armed robbery. Bail set at $100,000 in alleged drug sale.” The Intell also carried the story- March 11, 2015- ” Two New Hope Solebury students charged with allegedly beating up fellow student. I know that the New Hope Free Press carried the story but I am unable to locate it.
Bottom line- there are no zip codes immune to crime. It can happen anywhere at any time.
Everyone in the country, and especially in this part of PA, has been affected by this tragedy in some way. Those parents who need to comfort their own kids, those who drive by the site and wish they could do more to offer help, and those who realize that crime isn’t just something that happens “over there.”
We must all be more vigilant. If we see or hear something odd, we should say something to authorities.
I was so impressed by Matt Weintraub, and the professional calming-yet-compassionate way he delivered the daily press conferences. He was AMAZING!
And all of the police, FBI staff, detectives, volunteers and CADAVER dogs did an outstanding job.
Those who have a hunger for more details will probably get them as more details are uncovered. This is not a time for anger or impatience at not having all the facts immediately. Let’s let DA Weintraub continue to do the work he so tirelessly has shown us he can do.
MANY thanks to all involved in solving this case. We should all feel a bit safer knowing there are so many who care in our community.
Charlie I thought that was good…thanks.
Caroline, that was uncalled-for and unnecessary. Your screed serves as an example of what we should all strive not to be. I.e, “don’t be a dick”
“Don’t be a dick?” Oh okay, “Fred Norris” my mistake. I thought this was a newspaper, not a vanity project. Be sure to tell “Charlie” how much you liked it when you see him at Giant. He didn’t even bother to get the name of the DA right.
Sorry Caroline but the shoe seems to fit…
Why don’t you keep your negative vibes to yourself.
Thank you, Mr. Sahner. I am a Buckingham resident who has had to drive past the site going to and from work, and I go back-and-forth past the Courthouse when bringing my son to camp. He now knows what TV vans, camera crews, and gawking onlookers look like. This has been a lot for a 10-year-old to absorb, and it is hard for a parent to figure out the right course of action. Thank you for the very useful advice.
If you’re concerned about news vans, satellite trucks and camera crews, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This story is ripe for further coverage on reality crime drama shows not to mention a made for tv movie or major motion picture. So let’s hope not but it might just get worse.
Is anybody going to write a piece on this case that isn’t fluff? Are there no local reporters with the backbone to go after this story? Is it just laziness? Do you just like saying “I’m a writer” but not want to do any work that requires more than an email or a phone call? How about doing some digging and asking the real questions instead of regurgitating what’s being fed at the pressers. We don’t need you to repeat what we’ve already heard and seen for ourselves, and we don’t need any more fillers that state the patently obvious. There are some big questions that are going unanswered here. How about asking them? I thought that was the point of being a journalist.
You go, girl !!!
I agree. There’s so much to ask and wonder about. Will we ever know?? I hope, just as you do, that someone asks, gets answers and follows up.