ANCHORAGE (AP) — Law officers are reassuring residents of Kodiak Island in Alaska that they are not in immediate danger after the fatal shooting of two workers at a Coast Guard communications station, but the lack of reports of any arrests have left people on edge.
Wendy Cavender, a bartender at the B & B bar in Kodiak, a city about eight miles from the Coast Guard base, said residents were getting jumpy because they had few details about what had happened.
“I just think they need to release all the information they have, so people don’t get crazy and paranoid, which might lead to violence,” Ms. Cavender said. “All anybody knows is that there is a shooter and that person might still be at large.”
This story grabs my attention partly because I was born on Kodiak Island, the son of a Coast Guardsman, who says there were basically three kinds of families on the island—Coast Guard families, fisherman families, and Native American families. (And the bar-owning families, who were kept busy by the other three.) "In a place like Kodiak," my dad wrote in an email this morning, "there are so many possible angles to this type of homicide. Crime of passion, disgruntled spouse, angry employee, pissed-off fisherman, etc.?"
Four anecdotes about the place that I grew up hearing as a kid:
1. While we're living there, a fisherman gets home from sea a few days early. His first stop is the bar (of course) where he sees his wife getting too cozy with some public official. (I think it was the town mayor.) The fisherman walks up and slits the public official's throat. The public official doesn't die, but carries a nasty scar. If I recall correctly, no charges are filed.
2. Electricity was erratic at our house, as was TV and radio reception, so my mom would pass the time when my dad was at sea by reading to me by candlelight (usually Shakespeare, she used to say, which I think explains a few things about my life) and/or shoving me in a basket and hauling me to the local bar, where she'd hang out with helicopter pilots and the wives of sailors who were at sea (which also explains a few things). "It was said there were as many churches as bars on Kodiak," my dad wrote, "and you took refuge in one or the other." My parents, for the record, took refuge in both.
3. "One of my favorite stories," he added, "was about the guy on my ship who got drunk and wandered into a strange house. He snapped out of his alcoholic haze looking down the barrel of a .44 magnum, held by some woman from whose house he beat a hasty and most apologetic retreat."
4. One of my dad's favorite bars up there (not on Kodiak, but in Dutch Harbor) had a wild-eyed, grizzled old guy who looked like a ghost from the Gold Rush era. The guy used to jump up on tables and recite Robert Service poems if someone would buy him a beer. That bar, the Elbow Room, is a legend for its violence, often between crabbers and fishermen who'd just gotten home from sea with either a) shit-tons of money in their pockets or b) seething resentment for the ones who'd made a good catch. Typically (or so I'm told), people would start fighting, get shoved out the door by the staff and patrons, duke it out in the street while everyone watched, and then come back in and buy each other drinks. Apparently, Jimmy Buffett played there in his early days.
So: Who killed those Coast Guard guys in the communication station? And why? I bet it's a hell of a story, on a Shakespearean scale, that we'll never know the half of.