Compassion in Coppell (Commentary)

 Compassion in Coppell (Commentary)With a heavy heart, I took to the airwaves Friday night after what had been a tragic 48 hours or so in North Texas.  Coppell Mayor Jayne Peters (pictured) had gunned down her daughter, Corinne, and then took her own life.

Radio broadcasts and blogs had been filled with comments from people with no sympathy for what family and friends of the mayor and her daughter are now going through:

“She’s a murderer.”

“She’s a coward.”

“I’m glad she’s dead.  One less crazy woman.”

“Why lower the flag for a woman who killed her kid?  She’s honored while the average joe who puts on his work boots every day and makes it happen on a daily basis gets nothing?”

An honest debate over why the flag had been lowered at Coppell city hall was healthy and justified.  There was no honor in what had happened.  Only sadness.

Jayne Peters had lost her husband to cancer recently and was struggling to pay her bills.  We now learn that she had used her government credit card to buy groceries and clothes.  Her daughter, Corinne, had just graduated from the Coppell ISD and had told friends she was preparing to go to UT. But, it turns out the University of Texas had no record of her applying to become a Longhorn.

The more information that emerges about the Peters’ situation, the more it seems they were felt pressured to keep up appearances.

corinne peters Compassion in Coppell (Commentary)In her suicide notes, which were scattered around her apparently unaffordable home, Jayne Peters wrote that 19 year old Corinne (pictured) had become “completely unconsolable.”  She and her daughter had “not slept at all, and neither one of us could stop crying when we were together.”  Mayor Peters asked that there “please, please, please” be no funeral or memorial. Nevertheless, hundreds showed up for a memorial Friday afternoon.

So many mean spirtited comments have been directed at Jayne Peters and it’s not difficult to understand why.  There has been an all out assault on empathy in America. Why wouldn’t this woman have let her family and neighbors know how bad things had become?  Is it because we’re not supposed to lean on others?  Is it because those of us who live in suburban America have been told that no matter what your circumstances may be, your neighbor doesn’t need to be bothered with it?  You should always be self-sufficient.  You should never allow yourself to be seen as weak.

On my Friday night show, I was overhwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy.  One caller told me his son had attempted to commit suicide on Father’s Day.  Father’s Day to him now is a celebration of the fact that he’s STILL a father. Another told me they feel there just aren’t any forums in which people are allowed to express support for those who are suffering in tough economic times.

Another listener who lives in Coppell wrote to me:  “As a neighborhood and community, we will get past this tragedy.  However, the family will have to deal with this forever.  Friends will have to deal with this forever…I saw the family go to the house today and I feel terribly sorry for them.”

Those who repeatedly call for personal responsibility are right.  But, there is also a responsibility to let our neighbors know we are there for them and there’s no need to feel such great shame for their failings.

Heaven help us all if we can’t do that.

Scott Braddock


One Comment

  1. Lindi says:

    Bless you Scott Braddock for your compassion and insight. What a sad story.

  2. Kimberly says:

    Thank you for writing this story, Scott. I hope others are saying it of this situation. When I heard about it yesterday, I knew something had to be terribly amiss. But I’ll tell you this much:

    When neighborhood associations demand that people not be allowed to hang a clothesline in their front/back yards, for example, overtly deferring to “keeping up appearances” as justification enough and to which city ordinances are then written in response, I’m not sure how much any of us in this country are genuinely concerned with others’ misfortunes or how the demands of their lives will affect others.

  3. Melissa Whiting says:

    Great insights, Scott. Brings to my mind a Beatles’ song that included a related observation: “Life is very short
    And there’s no time for fighting and fussing my friends.”
    God bless the community of and surrounding Coppell.

  4. Anne says:

    Scott, without deminishing personal responsibility, everyone should be able to “lean” on their neighbors and/or friends when situations spiral out of their personal control. This is indeed a sad story and indicative of how our society has become so sterile and “me” oriented. It is time that Americans step back and re-evaluate what is important in life and “what is not”. Thank you for the story.

  5. Wyatt says:

    The tragedy is this came as a surprise — that there were too few people engaged with this two-person family to understand what was truly going on. In community, there is personal responsibility to one another, even strangers.

  6. Quiet Me says:

    Truly, this is such a sad story and my heart bleeds for this family, their friends and loved ones. Scott, your compassion is saintly and I completely agree about sharing with family & ‘trusted’ loved ones… and reaching out in times of need. Losing a husband/dad must be a devastating experience.
    Yet, my message is in response to your comment about “letting neighbors know we are there for them…” That, too, use to be my motto until I obtained a high profile position representing a ‘public figure’. It’s really tough and many times I’ve suffered major/serious depression. Lean on neighbors?? Granted, I love my neighbors… but I can tell you that they ‘trip’ about “who I know” and “what I do”. Although I really love my neighbors, honestly, I can’t share the intimate details of my career/life with them. I’ve tried but they didn’t listen and haven’t heard my cry. Many neighbors have brushed my cares aside with a ‘look at what you do and who know’ mentality. Living “in the spotlight” is tough! Most people, neighbors included, want to know all about ‘who’s who’ and “what’s what”, There are just certain things about my life which I cannot/will not divulge anymore. I will ‘lean’ on neighbors for a cup of sugar and have spent hours watching their children/feeding their pets. That’s truly a blessing for me.
    Sadly, most people do not understand the pressures of the media and the anxiety of living a very exposed life.
    There are qualified professional in the DFW area who are trained to treat depression… which is perhaps what Ms. Peters was suffering from. Scott… please encourage your readers that if anybody finds themselves in Ms. Peters’ position, to please call their physician or priest/pastor/minister. With their help, they will get through their dark days and life will be good. Mine finally is. 🙂

    1. scottbraddock says:

      Hello “Quiet Me.”

      I’m truly happy you were able to make it through your dark days. But, please understand I’m not asking for people to get into all the personal details of their neighbors’ lives. My point is that we need to erase this notion that we’ll face ridicule if we’re unable to have impressive *material* things. There’s nothing wrong with selling your home and moving into an apartment if that’s what it takes, especially in this economy.

  7. Susan says:

    Scott, I join you in your sense of horror at what has happened in this family. But what is even more horrifying, even more tragic is that other human beings are passing such hateful judgement on “their neighbor.” How can they feel justified in saying they’re glad she is dead when evidently the woman was drowning in the terrible circumstances of her life? Let this be a lesson for us all to be better neighbors, to look outside of ourselves with compassion and grace. God help us all.

  8. Victoria says:

    Yes depression, losing a spouse and having financial difficultes are all deeply troubling. I would venture to say that many of us have reached the depths of dispair at some point in our lives when we felt there was no one with whom to turn to. We’ve struggled year after year, day after day to care for our kids while balancing all the fast balls that life throws at us. That’s what love and life is all about. Giving when you feel you have no more to give, keeping on, keeping on. Why? Because quitting isn’t an option. Mrs. Peters wasn’t alone before she took her child’s life. She had love in her life and she destroyed it. I feel saddened and outraged at this incredibly selfish act. Making her a martyr and blaming society may give another reader all the justification they need to check out when they feel they’re reached their breaking point. The beautiful young woman named Corrine is the only victim from this tragedy.

    1. Anne says:

      Excellent analysis Victoria

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