In light of the tragedy that occurred on the morning of Jan. 17, the Geneseo campus community and administration have come together in support of the family and friends of seniors Kelsey Annese and Matthew Hutchinson. Their lives were brutally taken from them in their athletic and personal primes. Although I believe the response and support from the college has been admirable, others don’t share my view. The Lamron recently received a series of three anonymous voicemails from callers—claiming to be from California—that criticized President Denise Battles and the administration’s response to the tragedy. The callers claimed that by not specifically excluding Colin Kingston’s friends and family in our thoughts and prayers, we were somehow dishonoring the memories of Annese and Hutchinson.
Let’s be clear: what Kingston did was deplorable and horrifying and his actions deserve harsh condemnation. That being said, we as a community need to support his friends and family in what is an unthinkably difficult time.
First, we need to examine why Kingston took the actions that he did. Kingston was—in all likelihood—severely mentally ill for the last 48 hours of his life. Rumors have circulated that Kingston made suicidal comments to individuals on Jan. 16. Assuming this is correct, we can conclude that he was clinically depressed in some way, shape or form. Although his actions were terrible, his mental illness warrants some level of empathy.
Moreover, the Kingston family lost a son and a brother. I don’t want to speak for the family, but I can only imagine the mortification and grief they must be feeling. His family did not support his actions—and all the evidence supports this. Kingston’s father called 911 right away after his son called him saying that he had hurt two individuals and planned to hurt himself. Given the circumstances, Kingston’s father acted fitly.
As a community, we need to respond with empathy toward Kingston’s friends and family. While I listened to the voicemails, I thought of my own sister. Had she been mentally ill and committed a terrible act, I would be horrified, embarrassed and ashamed. I would be distraught not only because a person I loved did something atrocious, but also because I would never see them alive again. I never want to as much as imagine this situation, let alone live it.
In order to heal as a community, we need to stand together. Geneseo lost three lives on Jan. 17. Three families lost someone irreplaceable. Nearly every student on this campus knows someone deeply affected by the tragedy. Condemning the family of the perpetrator is not a healthy or effective means of coping.
We should embrace the Kingstons and welcome them to mourn our losses together. By doing this, we open the door for a critical discussion on mental illness and how we can prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.