When one grows up in a small town, as I did, he tends to have mixed feelings and emotions toward the place that nurtured him. On the one hand, I was never in love with the small-mindedness of Mahopac, N.Y. It was a sheltered place; racially and ethnically limited; culturally, well, uncultured. And yet, it is also my home. I rode my bike up Kings Ridge. I played night tag in Gary Miller’s back yard. I walked to town with John Ballerini and Scott Choy and Jonathan Powell, bought some gum and soda, then walked back. Mahopac is the place where I had my first crush; where I ran my first race; where I learned to drive and swim and dance and … just about everything. It’s home, and even though I haven’t lived there in two decades, it remains a place that I identify with; the place of my roots.
Which is why I am so incredibly sad.
Two days ago, the quiet, sleepy, boring town of Mahopac, N.Y. was tragically stirred from its sleep. Michael Purdy, a volunteer firefighter and a man my mother always spoke incredibly highly of, was shot to death in what police have ruled a “murder-suicide.” The details are sketchy and, in the context of this post, unnecessary. What I can tell you is that a man, Michael Boccardi, shot Purdy (pictured above), then killed himself.
These sorts of things don’t happen in Mahopac, Well, not often. Fifteen years ago this month, a classmate of mine, Gina Nacelrio, was killed in a drunk driving accent that shook the town. Otherwise, I can’t think of anything. Again, it’s a quiet place. Easy. Simple. Sheltered.
I didn’t really know Michael Purdy. We spoke once or twice—that was it. However, he is the father in law of a kid I grew up with; a kid who—judging by his Facebook posts—is empty right now. I can’t imagine what he’s feeling, or what the family is feeling. Sure, these types of things happen every day in towns across the United States.
Just not in my town.
Not in Mahopac.