Editorial: Finding a way to rise above

The Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce and its Festival of Fireworks partners are offering a $1,000 award for information that will help law enforcement track down the person responsible for the threats that caused the cancellation of this year’s August show. Sadly, this person has an axe to grind with town officials and isn’t prepared to bring them to their attention face-to-face, or already has and isn’t happy with the outcome.

Jaffrey police made the contents of an Aug. 16 letter sent to the Jaffrey Town Office, police and a Keene newspaper public for the first time on Wednesday, revealing a chaotic letter written by someone who either intended or wanted people to believe he or she aimed to maim and kill as many people as possible at the annual event, which regularly draws 30,000 to 35,000 people. The letter writer alleges he or she lost a home in Jaffrey and that town officials are responsible. We’re hopeful that the reward will help draw out a suspect who either desperately needs help — and the letter is no doubt a cry for help — or has not yet learned how to appropriately deal with conflict. Often there are no easy solutions to complex disagreements, and people leave the negotiating table feeling they got the raw end of the deal. It’s easy to hide behind an anonymous letter while police scramble to secure the safety of its citizenry. What isn’t so easy is holding one’s head up after a difficult situation and determining to move forward in a positive way, setting the example for others, especially our youth.

The 8th Circuit Court in Jaffrey also had a difficult decision to make Tuesday in the matter of bail for Devon Tatro, 18, of Peterborough who is charged with arson and reckless conduct after allegedly setting fire to the Union Street apartment where he lives on Nov. 19. Judge L. Phillips Runyon III was asked to reduce Tatro’s bail from $50,000 to $2,000, so that his father could get him out of jail and into a mental health facility. Runyon ultimately denied the request.

A State Fire Marshall alleges Tatro had a disagreement with one of his parents before deciding to set a fire in the bathroom and disabling smoke detectors in his apartment, which shares a wall with another apartment in the Rockbrook Apartments complex. At Tatro’s probable cause hearing Tuesday, his lawyers argued Tatro has been dealing with mental health issues. It’s an unfortunate situation and we’re grateful no one was hurt. The question though remains: How do we as a society teach our youth how to cope with challenges and disappointments in life and, when they don’t, how do we set them back on the right course? And how do we hold people who choose to lash out responsible without further alienating them? How do we help them?

On the face of it, these tests seem insurmountable and may sometimes leave us feeling helpless. But the folks in Jaffrey aren’t backing down and neither should we. They have an opportunity to set a meaningful example of a community that rose above the fray when someone tried to hurt them. They’re going forward with Santa’s House and other programs that help people, and they’re taking steps to bring the letter writer to justice. But how they respond once that happens could make all the difference.

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