Monday, September 22, 2014

Living Under "Siege"

The “New Normal” – Hopefully Not for Much Longer

     Life has changed dramatically in our little corner of Northeastern PA. On Friday, September 12, at a PA State Trooper barracks in neighboring Pike County, two Troopers were ambushed and shot, one fatally. The following Tuesday a vehicle (I believe a Jeep) was found partially submerged in a pond of some kind, or a swampy area, not far from the barracks. It appeared to have been abandoned by the shooter, a man who lives in the northern part of Monroe County, probably some 20 miles from the barracks where the shooting occurred. There were surprising items found in the Jeep, including ammunition and some form of ID. The Jeep was found by a resident of sparsely-populated Pike County who was walking his dog.
     Since that time there has been an intense manhunt for the alleged shooter, primarily in and around the house he occupies … or occupied … with his parents. This has involved hundreds of law enforcement officers, not just from the state. Eric Frein is now #2 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, with a $100,000 reward on his head from the FBI and an additional $75,000 reward from PA Crime Stoppers. The search I believe heated up considerably last Thursday night and has been continuing with this intensity ever since.
     Some schools have been closed, primarily those in the area closest to the activity. Students were removed Thursday afternoon very abruptly from after school activities by one neighboring school district. A second district was closed for a day. Many businesses in the immediate area, the usually quiet little town of Canadensis, have been open only sporadically.
     News media of all kinds have reporters on the scene, and the law enforcement personnel have been very sparing of any details. We have been told that “there have been items found” in the dense woods that cover hundreds of acres. SWAT teams have been quite visible, helicopters and low flying aircraft are patrolling that area pretty much non-stop. I’m not sure how many federal agents from which agencies are on scene, other than ATF (we’ve seen occasional photos of the jackets or comments from locals who have seen them).
     Roads have been closed and people have been requested to stay inside their homes in the immediate area. The activity seems to be highest at night. There is speculation that Frein is holed up during the day and moving around at night. Many people in the area have scanners and listen intensely, and post periodically via primarily Facebook status updates and comments. There are many threads, especially on certain FB pages, and those of us who don’t own scanners find ourselves drawn to these comments, always hopeful the word will come that he’s been apprehended. Sometimes it seems minutes away, but he’s evaded and eluded capture for at least five days at this point. Perhaps longer, I’m sure there are many details of which we are not aware, and probably should NOT know about.
     This must be similar to what the people in parts of Boston dealt with after the Marathon bombing, when they had no idea who had committed that horrific crime. We don’t know if Frein acted alone. I’m baffled as to why he would leave such clear evidence in his vehicle. I have to trust that with all the forces gathered in basically two townships in our county there is good reason to believe he is actually where they are looking for him.
    Some people are critical of the law enforcement officers, unfortunately. None of us civilians have ANY IDEA what they are dealing with; especially in this area. Not only are the many hundreds of acres of woodlands dense with trees and underbrush, this part of the state is very rocky. And when I say rocky, I am talking about boulders, which are everywhere and which can be incredibly large. So there are many hiding places. To my mind, the most chilling thing we’ve been told is that Frein has been planning this “for months, if not years.” It makes me wonder what has been found that would prompt such a comment. I also wonder why an alleged “cop killer” would be the subject of so much attention from Federal agencies.
     The way social media has been used to communicate what sparse information is available is fascinating. One local group’s Facebook page had requests to join from I believe over three hundred people in one day, because many of the original members had scanners and were posting whatever they could understand. Word of a shelter for people who can’t get to their homes was posted on FB as I was writing this blog post. There is a strong sense of community through the whole county because of social media. I live probably at least 15 miles from where the action is taking place, but when I walked across the road to my mailbox this afternoon, I could hear the helicopters to the north. Having them directly above you has to be nerve-wracking. I wonder how parents of children are handling this, especially parents of young children.

     There are times in our life when we simply have to endure. This is such a time for my community, and especially for two small townships in this county. It’s my understanding the law enforcement officers have been helpful in cases of emergency and have been escorting people in and out of the area when it’s essential. I for one … and I think I speak for many who live here … am very grateful for the LEOs who are trying hard to bring this to a swift and hopefully peaceful resolution. For the most part, they are heroes.