On Location: Wal-Mart Parking Lots
BY: KERRY CANDAELE, Co-Producer
Chris Bottoms, one of our cinematographers, and I met Megan Holden’s family in mid-July in Henderson, Texas, a very small town in the western part of the state about four hours east of Dallas.
We didn't know what to expect from the Holden family. Megan Holden, a young woman of 19 years, had been kidnapped out of a Wal-Mart parking lot. She was brutally murdered. The killer had been hanging around both inside and outside the store for hours. He later turned up on the grainy tape that the cameras outside pick up. But nobody was monitoring the cameras. At Wal-Mart stores nobody ever monitors the cameras. It would take one low paid worker to do it for every eight hour shift, not much money when you add it up, but the cameras at Wal-Mart stores go unwatched.
Megan's mother Sheri, and Megan's sister Crisa, met us in the office of Rusty Phenix, the Holden family lawyer. Some of Megan's friends and former co-workers were there as well. We had set up before they arrived. Rusty's office was comfortable, lawyerly in a stuffed leather couch kind of way, with the signs of his fierce patriotism on the walls and on the desk. Rusty made us feel welcome. But still I felt like a voyeur, a bit of a louse, about to look in from a distance at someone else's pain and despair.
But as soon as the family and friends began to talk, all distance was closed and nervousness stopped, replaced by sadness, just the sadness of familiar tragedy. In a situation like this, with suffering so raw, so new and near the surface, there isn't much that one needs to ask of a person who has lost her daughter, her sister, her friend, a deepest love. An opening question and then keep silent. The words come, and the tears flow. The world of tears is often mysterious to me. I grew up in family of five boys and no girls. But these tears I could understand clearly, as if they were pouring from Megan's sister's eyes into mine and down across my cheeks.
When Crisa spoke as if Megan were physically next to her but somehow out of reach, begging for her return so they could listen to records again, make fun of one another again, I thought of my own brother who had died young and suddenly a few years ago. There wasn't a "political" point to be made at a moment like that; these are only moments of suffering that know no reason, that need no reason, for reason and context isn't wanted or needed. That kind of immediate expression of pain has no external reference point.
It is only in cooler moments that a point or two can be made, should be made, about a company's negligence, about a corporate culture that prizes things and money over people.
There were other crime stories that crystallized the "Wal-Mart way" for me. So many cameras to protect merchandise, so much money spent on keeping people from stealing mascara, or a microwave. So little spent on the safety of customers in the notoriously dangerous parking lots of Wal-Mart, too little. During one of our crime story interviews, I asked a man what he would tell his daughter who was going out to shop at a Wal-Mart at night: "Don't go," he said. That sort of sums it up.
Chris and I left Henderson for Dallas late in the afternoon after talking to five or six people about Megan. I lived with their pain and my own melancholy only for the few hours that would take us back to the hotel and then to the airport and then home. Those we left behind, Megan's family and friends, will have a lifetime to live with their suffering.
See also: View list of crimes in Wal-Mart parking lots during first 7 months of 2005.
See also: WalMartCrimeReport.com can show you the number of police incident reports at Wal-Mart stores near you.
See also: A memorial web site dedicated to Megan Holden.