A few weeks ago a deranged lunatic murdered two people on a train in Oregon after they interrupted his verbal assault on a Muslim woman and her friend. One of the victims, Ricky Best, was stripped of his wedding ring and backpack as he lay dying by one George Tschaggeny in what was described as a “completely heartless” act by the Portland Police. Tschaggeny was seen stealing the items on CCTV and was later found in a homeless camp wearing the wedding ring.
This Tschaggeny sounds like the sort of man you’d want to drop into a deep hole and forget about, but Samantha Matsumoto, a journalist at The Oregonian, has done some splendid work and written an article which suggests we might want to pause for a moment:
Tschaggeny’s ex-wife remembers, they built a great life together.
[He] introduced her to Australian shepherds, and soon, they had four.
They spent their days hiking, mountain biking and lifting weights. At home, their TV was always tuned to the Western movie channel. Tschaggeny tended to the rose garden in their yard and, every day, he made his wife lunch for work and then dropped her off.
Tschaggeny was honored by police in June 2010 for stopping a bank robber a few months earlier, Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said. The robber led police on a car chase, then crashed into a bus at Providence Hospital. The robber ran into a nearby neighborhood.
Tschaggeny, who was in his front yard of his home with another man, Scott Morales, saw the robber with a knife in his hand running from officers. They chased him down and took him to the ground, holding him there until police could arrest him.
The awards ceremony lauded the men’s “courageous and selfless” actions.
So what went wrong?
Tschaggeny started going to a clinic for knee pain he still had from injuries he’d gotten as a child. To help him deal with the pain, his ex-wife said, the clinic prescribed him pills.
“That’s how it all began,” she said.
The change happened slowly. Tschaggeny’s ex-wife noticed he was angry and not interested in their usual activities.
At some point, though his ex-wife isn’t exactly sure when, he began to use heroin.
From there it was all downhill: Tschaggeny became a different person, his marriage failed, and he started getting in trouble with the law. It’s easy to criticise people for getting hooked on drugs, but this guy didn’t set out to become a junkie, he was fighting what sounds like chronic knee pain. And as the article says:
Four in five new heroin users reported they started out abusing prescription pills, according to a 2016 report by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Many say they turned to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids, the report says.
I’ve had a bad back for years which has recently gotten worse (yes, I’ve been to a doctor), and I am trying everything I can to manage the pain without taking pills other than the occasional paracetamol. It’s not bad, easily manageable, but on the days when it flares up I can imagine what it must be like for somebody who must live with intense pain in their joints day in, day out, year after year.
I doubt the poor chap in the story above knew quite how badly heroin would destroy his life, but he obviously thought it worth the risk for few hours without pain. Yes, perhaps he was weak and had other flaws which lead him down this path more easily than others, but still…there but for the grace of God, and all that.
The whole thing is a tragic reminder of how easy it is to slip between the cracks of life, and how hard it is to climb back up. It’s hard to know what to do really, other keep an eye on those around you and help them where you can.