my personal blog

April 14, 2008

Remembering the D.C. Starbucks Murders

Filed under: personal,thoughts,work — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 10:34 am

With so much tragedy in the world, it’s easy to become jaded, and unless you can identify with a particular story, these tragedies are easy to ignore. The only news story that’s ever haunted me was the triple-murder at a Starbucks in D.C. that happened during the summer of 1997.

The other day, I saw an episode of Murder by the Book on Tru TV about the Georgetown murders, and it gave me chills. I’ve seen so many crime dramas, and watched so many documentaries on crimes on Discovery Channel, TLC, etc. that I never even associate with the victims—I associate with the cops and forensic investigators every time. What makes this case so different? Starbucks.

In 1999, I began working at Starbucks in Miami, and I worked at Starbucks until 2007. Love it or hate it (I have felt both), Starbucks has been a huge part of my life for almost a decade. I’ve set the alarm and locked up at midnight more times than most baristas have worked shifts there. I’ve opened the doors at the crack of dawn literally hundreds of times. And I’ve always wondered, what if this happened at my store? From the Tru TV article:

Letting herself in, the manager saw with dismay that the place was still littered with trash. As she walked through the eating area, it seemed that something more was amiss than the nightshift’s simple neglect. The store’s music was still playing; seemingly no one had shut it off. It was out of character for Mary Mahoney to leave without ensuring that everything was as it should be. She was conscientious to a fault. The place just felt wrong: a stray cup on the floor, a broom leaning against the counter, the garbage not taken out, as if the cleanup had just suddenly stopped.

Reading this passage still gives me chills. I’m sure anyone who’s worked in retail and opened the store in the early morning could feel what I feel, but I have a special kinship with these people. More so than with most retail jobs, especially in the earlier days, Starbucks is almost eerily tight-knit. To this day, I say “we” when I talk about Starbucks. I cannot shake the connection. I suppose the only way one empathizes with victims of tragedy is to think, “that could be me”. Those could have been my coworkers, my friends.

In the summer of 1998, I went to Washington D.C., and I stopped by the Georgetown area Starbucks where this tragedy had happened. At the time, the murders were still unsolved and fresh in the public psyche. A towering monument commemorating the slain Starbucks partners, Emory Evans, Aaron Goodrich and Caity Mahoney, dominated the front of the store.

Then, years after I had gone to D.C., and after I’d been working at Starbucks for some time, my store was robbed. Seeing the mess in the back room reminded me again of the Georgetown murders. I didn’t open the store that day, and fortunately my coworkers who had opened found nothing more than a mess and a safe ripped open like a can of tuna.

One day, I’d like to revisit the scene of the D.C. murders. I couldn’t find any pictures from the store, or of the monument. I suppose not everyone associates with this tragedy as I do. But, everyone associates with some tragedy. This was mine.

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