Even the Potatoes are Sad

Even the Potatoes are Sad

If there is any place in Vermont that represents the best qualities of our state – a place where the community comes together to buy local, laugh, make friends and celebrate what we cherish about our lives – it is the Brattleboro Food Co-op.  (Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin)

That something like this could happen at our beloved Brattleboro Food Co-op is unfathomable.

That this act was intentional is confounding.

That the murderer was someone who lived and loved among us is heartbreaking.

That a life was stolen is devastating.

I write these words from vacation, 300 miles away from the Green Mountain State, knowing that I will miss tonight’s vigil in Brattleboro.  But even this far away, I am blessed by my community’s response to this loss, as echoed by the outpouring of solidarity on the Co-op’s Facebook page:

What a sad day for the coop and all of us in this community. (Ruth Wilmot)

It is 2 AM and I’m staring at this computer, wondering how many other of us Co-op members are sleepless from worry, shock and grief – after this saddening event. (Nancy Burgeson Anderson)

We are all feeling this. It is heartbreaking and horrible. Love to all of you close to the scene. No one is worrying about when the Coop will be open again. We *are* worrying about each of you. (Johnny Lee Lenhart)

You guys are all very dear to us. We are helpless to do anything to make this better, but our thoughts are very much with you, and I hope you will let us know if there is any way we can help.  (Ted Lemon)

We are all so stunned by this news. Our thoughts are with you and the families involved as you work through this difficult time. (Gail Graham)

I take heart that what is shared is supportive, and life serving, rather than filled with the rage or malice that takes lives:

This is a time to really appreciate facebook. Reading these comments heals me and hopefully others feel the same. Knowing how people from all over the country are holding our community and especially the staff of BFC in their hearts is so meaningful. (Bari Shamas)

Certainly we are all angry. That which has been stolen, has been stolen from us all–even from the one who took the life (maybe from him most of all); and I cannot begin speak to the grief of those who were intimate with the victim:

My heart aches at the news. Micheal was such a loving guy. He will be missed by many. (Karen Ernest Hatt)

Michael was a friend and will be missed. (Chris Maher)

It is impossible to know the right thing to say. Michael was a good guy and will be missed in the co-op community.  (David Lippman)

I’m saddened to admit that I cannot place Michael from memory; but no doubt I will recognize his face–and even his kindness–as we all “know” each other in Brattleboro, especially in the aisles of the Co-op.

Given my lack of intimacy, I question the depth of my grief, until I read how deeply others have been affected by this loss, not just in Brattleboro or Vermont, but all around the country, and even around the world:

 Sending much love and healing prayers from Thailand. (Nathan Olmstead)

It’s 3:30 in the morning in Vancouver. Neither Cliff (a former employee) nor I can sleep. We are thinking of all of you in the community and send our love. (Lynn Levine)

My heart is broken today. Please know I am sending you my support from afar. The co-op isn’t just a place where I used to work; it is like a family home to me. (Wendy M. Levy)

It is a little crazy that i feel more connected to a store 200 miles away from my home than i do the stores right down the street- but i feel like i know you guys after 4+ years of stopping in for dinner once a week (sometimes more.) It’s a neighborly, small town family feel, and familiar faces, and that is one of the reasons why i love coming to Brattleboro. (Stephanie Santoro)

In addition to the personal expressions of grief, there are the “collective”–messages from co-ops in Belfast, Maine; in Oregon, in Texas, in California, in New Orleans.

As I read through this flood of personal and collective grief, I get a renewed sense of what a Co-op is; how it touches lives; how it connects them:

My heart is aching for the individuals and the collective… ever faithful that you all will make your way through this in a manner that has me falling in love with my co-op all over again. tender blessings… ♥ (Kim Weeter)

When you reopen again, you will feel a tidal wave of love, all of you who work there, who make our days just that much richer. It will be a hard day, but the town will speak to your hearts, and you will remember why you are here. (Jack MacKay)

In addition to messages from individuals and other co-ops, there is now a growing response from companies who sell their products to these stores:

All of us at Baudelaire Soaps offer our deepest sympathies and condolences.

There is something oddly moving by sentiment expressed by soap. It somehow speaks to what is also precious at the Co-op: the heart and passion of the people behind each product.

It’s hard to fathom the breadth of this single act, taken by Richard Gagnon, our wine manager, who traveled the world with his beloved wife Meg, to bring us the sweetness of the vine.

Today, even the potatoes are sad:

Your friends at Small Potatoes offer our deepest sympathies and condolences.


Kelly Salasin, August 10, 2011, Brattleboro Food Co-op Shopper/Member since ’94, past staffer

Click here for, Dear Richard, An Open Letter to a Murderer.

9 thoughts on “Even the Potatoes are Sad

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this unfathomable horror. I’ve never been to Brattleboro, but I met Michael in March at a P6 meeting and though I didn’t know him for very well or for very long, the loss feels much more like a death in the family than of just a business associate.

    It’s a beautiful thing about the Co-op community that when a tragedy affects one, it affects us all, and your words here are a testament to that. I think it’s so important that we share our grieving to share in the healing– especially for those of us who are so geographically removed from the site of the tragedy, and unable to attend the vigil. Love and healing energy to Brattleboro from the community at the Davis Food Co-op in Davis, California.


  2. This is a lyrical elegy for Brattleboro Food Co-op and all who are connected to it, either intimately or through the web. Every food co-op is affected by this sad and horrific act–the grief is truly universal. I know Alex Gyori well and met Mike this summer, and the pain and anguish is unimaginable. Thank you for writing. Anne Hopkins, Good Foods Co-op, Lexington KY


  3. When the news went ’round the Co-op email listings and we got it in Atlanta there was just shock. I’d never met the people involved, but we’re all a big wacky co-op family and this has been on my mind here.

    The day we found out what happened, I asked out new GM, Tom if we could send some flowers for the vigil and he agreed. When I called the local shop (keepin’ it local, even out of state) to order flowers I had a bit of a time talking about what was to go on the card. Many other co-ops across the country sent emails through the list-serv, but I wanted to take this moment to share what we said to our sister store so far north:

    To our family at Brattleboro Food Co-op,
    You have our deepest sympathies and condolences on the loss of your friend and coworker and the circumstances of this tragic event. Please know that many sister cooperatives and friends across the country are sharing in your sorrows. Perhaps this will help lift the burdens you share at this time.

    Peace be unto you all during the coming days,

    Your friends at Sevananda Natural Foods Market


    1. Thank you for sharing this Holly. I know that BFC has been so well supported from their sister co-op’s around the country. Emails from the list serve have been printed and displayed in the store.


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