Moving beyond the fear

The murder of David Grubbs scares me. I didn't know him personally — he was just a friendly, helpful face when I was shopping for my grocery staples of ramen, energy drinks and pre-made muffins at Shop'n Kart. I knew him in the way all young people in Ashland vaguely know one another from a web of various mutual friends and a shared history of growing up in Ashland.

But now, because of his murder, I am worried and anxious each day. I lock all my doors all the time, even when I'm home. I glance in the backseat of the car before I get in and quickly relock all the doors as soon as I've sat down in the driver's seat. I don't take my garbage out at night and my heart jumps when things go bump in the night. Every evening I give thanks that I don't own a dog which would require me to take him out on walks, requiring me to be out, in the dusky darkness surrounded by strangers.

I know the murder was a single incident, and if I were a more rational person I would remember that Ashland is full of friendly, kind people, just like the world in general is full of mostly friendly, kind people. But I'm not a rational person. Instead I'm allowing one bad apple to ruin my Ashland barrel.

I worry about strangers. I look at people in suspicion and horror. Someone is capable of horrible, horrendous things. It could be you, it could be the person behind me in line at the ATM, and it could be the next person who stops to talk to my son, Silas, while he's playing in the park.

Fear is almost always irrational, not something that I can be logical and thoughtful about. Like flying in an airplane. I really, really know that I'm much more likely to die on the freeway trying to get to the airport than I am at risk of being in a plane crash, but I still can't stop myself from gripping the armrests, tightening Silas' seatbelt until he turns blue, and muttering prayers from takeoff to landing.

When fear has gripped a person, or a community, it's hard to know when to relax. I believe, or I hope, that the police have more clues than what they've released to the media. I know real life isn't a television show and they can't have it neatly wrapped up for me — no matter how much I wish they could — in under an hour, and yet I continue to obsessively check the Daily Tidings website, searching for "Breaking News."

I believe we have an excellent police department, doing the very best they can, but I still have to think about the possibility that David Grubbs' murder may never be solved. Without a front page photo of a crime mug shot, how am I going to stop gripping the armrests and relax back into my life and my routine?

The same question stands for the rest of the community. Many of us are anxious and scared, both for ourselves and for our families. Is the solution lighting the bike path or asking for increased police presence on the bike path? The town needs both a solution and also an outlet to heal. Finding a way to move beyond this fear and anxiety and suspicion will allow us to celebrate David's life, rather than just the fear we all have over his death.

I truly believe that most people are good, most of the time. With that in mind, I'll probably be able to start taking out my garbage after dark again, just not tonight.

Zoe Abel was born in Ashland. Except for a brief phase in her childhood when she was afraid of witches, this is the first time she's been afraid of the dark in her own town. You can contact her at

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