Can you remember the names of the kids who lived next door when you were growing up? I recall Margaret Ann Smith Something or other… and Mrs. Looce, the nice lady on the corner who made the most creative Easter eggs ever. Shirly Jackson was across the street. But that’s about it for the memories from our little street in Westchester, Ill. So I was very impressed when Channel 11 reporter J.D. Miles recalled that he had grown up next door to Nicki or Nadir Soofi on Travis Drive in Plan. Soofi was one of the two young men killed Sunday while attempting to carry out a mass shooting at a Garland art contest that was also pretty obviously mean-spirited.
In fact, Sunday’s “Art Fair” it reminded me of the time the Nazis decided to plan a march in suburban Skokie, Illinois, a leafy Chicago suburb that was predominately Jewish and like ground zero for Holocaust survivors.
It took a neo-Nazi named Frank Collin to bring the point home, when he ignited a worldwide media sensation by threatening to lead his small band of followers on a march in Skokie in the late 1970s. The anguish he caused the survivors quickly became apparent through news stories documenting their outrage on TV and radio and on the front pages of newspapers everywhere.
The people of Skokie fought Collin all the way to the Supreme Court, where he won his right to march in 1978 based on his constitutional right to free speech. But he never did. His demonstration became a rally in Chicago, probably for the greater publicity factor. I remember producers at WBBM-TV (where I wrked at the time) saying it was killing them that the media was giving Collin what he wanted — publicity. A few made decisions to tone down the coverage. But the Nazi survivors, most of whom had kept a low profile until that point, just happy to live peacefully and raise their families, became more vocal:
But the survivors witnessed this spectacle with very different eyes. They had seen another pathetic man rise to become chancellor of Germany in 1933 and the architect of their near-destruction. Collin had made a point of using the same language as Hitler, speaking on TV interviews about “the final solution to the Jewish question” (though Collin himself was the son of a Jewish Holocaust survivor).
It was smart of Garland Mayor Douglas Athas to blast Pam Geller, the organizer of the “Art Show” as inviting an incendiary reaction. Yet I think she and her organization had every right to hold their function and speak their mind, even as Frank Collin had a right to march Nazi’s through Skokie. Sometimes upholding our constitution and our profound defense of free speech, which I believe is among our most treasured freedoms, is painful. Unfortunately, we have to protect hateful, ugly speech, as well as beautiful.
The other frightening thing is that Soofi grew up in the all-American suburb of Plano, as Miles recalled. Travis is off Coit and West Park Blvd, just north of George W. Bush and east of Preston Road. The homes were built in the late ’70’s. Here is one (2205 Travis) built in 1979 very similar to the Miles house: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2100 ish square feet on .5 acres. These were clean, crisp starter homes when they were built, we looked at many like this by Fox & Jacobs in Carrollton when we first moved to Dallas in 1980. Interest rates were at 18%. Looking at MLS, many of the homes on Travis are now rentals leasing for about $1595 a month. 2205 Travis was leased in 2012.
I think it’s pretty compelling to think that someone you grew up next door to could ultimately become a killer — many people I have spoken with this week are very disturbed by the violence Sunday In Garland, and hope we do not see more of it. Realtors are whispering about Garland home values holding their own. I think they will be just fine… it’s the homeowner’s peace of mind I worry about.
But what do you think? Will this event and the shooting hurt Garland real estate values?