Media coverage of mass killings tends to focus on the killers and their victims. “Delivered from Evil” provides a slightly different perspective, going beyond the moments when killers crossed paths with their victims to “examine how the survivor[s] coped with the trauma and its ripple effects.”
Veteran author Ron Franscell looks back at ten infamous mass murders—including the West Paducah High School shooting (1997), George Hennard’s rampage at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas (1991), and Charles Whitman’s shooting spree at the University of Texas in Austin (1973)—and examines the physical and emotional struggles of select individuals who survived. To be sure, Franscell devotes a considerable portion of each chapter to recounting the horrific violence of each incident (supplemented by 100 often graphic color and black-and-white images), but it’s the stories of individuals like Brent Doonan, who survived being shot four times during the 1999 Day-Trader Shooting Spree in Atlanta, that are the book’s raison d’âtre.
Perhaps the most compelling of all the survivor’s tales is that of Keith Thomas, who saw his best friend shot and killed by James Huberty in the McDonald’s Massacre in San Ysidro, California, in 1984. Thomas went on to become a drug abuser and landed in a mental hospital, “an unfathomable tangle of survivor guilt, rage, depression, self-destructive behavior, hostility, drug abuse, pessimism, emotional detachment, feeble self-esteem, obsessions, poor impulse control, self-mutilation, nightmares, and identity problems,” writes Franscell. He also developed a fascination with guns—and killers—and drifted in and out of jails, drug houses and rehabilitation clinics. But 12 years after the massacre, he got clean and sober, changed his last name, married and had a son. And like many of the subjects of this book, notes Franscell, “[h]e continues to discover who he is and wrestles every day with stubborn old demons, but he’s finally got the upper hand.”
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