On Sunday a 24-year-old woman drove her car, it seems deliberately, into a crowd of people on a sidewalk in Las Vegas. She killed one and injured 32 others, many seriously. Her name is Lakeisha Holloway and she will probably face murder charges. The fate of the three-year-old daughter, a passenger in the car at the time, is unknown.
Lakeisha Holloway’s life before Sunday was such a checkered compilation of highs and lows that it’s surprising (1) she has survived this long and (2) that she hasn’t turned out better. If you read what we know of her biography you will learn that in 2012 she received an award for mentoring high school students, but that three years later she and her daughter were trying to survive in a 1996 Oldsmobile which she drove from parking area to parking area seeking out new “homes.” She may have had a falling out with the father of that child. She may have snapped. We don’t know. Her face betrays a lifetime of misery, yet she’s only 24.
I am not defending her. And I’m certainly not excusing what she did, whatever her plight. But as sad as this story is, at Christmas or any other time, it has been made sadder by the idiots and fools who have fabricated their own subplot—one that involves Ms. Holloway screaming Allah Ahckbar as she mowed down her victims. (Allah Ahckbar is apparently the bogot’s translation of Allahu Akbar which means God is Greater—an opinion I choose not to contest at this point.)
The tragedy of this story ripples out so far that it doesn’t need lies to make it more compelling. We know that a woman is dead. We know that her name was Jessica Valenzuela, that she was the stay-at-home mother of three young daughters, that she and her husband had recently celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary. Some will claim that she deserves more words than I have given her, and maybe in most people’s opinions, more words than I’ve already given to Ms. Holloway. I won’t argue that, but as Scrooge learns in A Christmas Carol, who deserves more words or more of anything is not ours to decide.
There’s no lesson here. There’s no Christmas reclamation or shiny ending. There’s nothing but desolation and loss. But in this new political climate of fear and bigotry, it would be reassuring if, for a few days anyway, the bigots and haters might allow a little empathy to influence their thoughts—if they could at least admit that Ms. Holloway was not a political extremist but merely a disconsolate American who had reached the end of her tether and could find no one to pull her back. And could they also admit (and could we?) that a kind word that day might actually have produced that Christmas reclamation and shiny ending for her and her child? Lakeisha Holloway could just as easily have been a modern-day George Bailey—instead of the woman who will spend this Christmas—and perhaps all her Christmases to come—behind bars.