By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
BEIJING, Aug. 11 -- In a hospital here, a family recovers. This is not simple because the details of the murder that shocked the Olympics are still too raw, too awful to describe in detail. But on Monday, Elisabeth Bachman McCutcheon was able to talk to her husband, Hugh, about the killing of her father, which she witnessed. And that alone was a small step forward. On this day that was progress enough.
"Clearly, Elisabeth is a victim in this, too," U.S. men's volleyball Coach Hugh McCutcheon said Monday night of the attack at the Drum Tower, a local landmark, that killed Todd Bachman and seriously injured her mother, Barbara. "She physically is unscathed but having to deal with this incident has been hard for her. She's shown incredible strength and over the last couple of days we've been able to talk our way through it.
"There have been a lot of tears and a lot of hugs but the fact that she's able to address what happened is a testament to whatever you want to call it -- her intestinal fortitude. Her strength is her character."
Still shaken by the murder of his father-in-law, McCutcheon sat in a meeting room at a hotel here, looking drawn and sad but still managed to speak warmly about his wife's family, especially Todd Bachman, whom he called "a man of great personal integrity."
"He stood for things and lived them," McCutcheon said.
McCutcheon left the volleyball team in the middle of a practice on Saturday afternoon when his wife called from the site of the attack and left a message with a team official that she needed to speak with him immediately. After McCutcheon called back, he found a USOC official who arranged for a car to drive him immediately to the Drum Tower where Elisabeth remained for some time after the incident.
Todd and Barbara Bachman had come to the Olympics on a tour package and brought along their daughter, who was a member of the U.S. women's volleyball team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The trio's trip to the Drum Tower was one of the excursions provided by the tour company.
McCutcheon, who has remained by his family's side, declined to give details of the attack because of the impending Chinese investigation. But he said it happened "quite quickly" and that it appeared to be unprovoked. Because Barbara McCutcheon has barely been able to communicate, some details are still unknown.
Chinese authorities identified the attacker as Tang Yongming, a 47-year-old man from the eastern city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province.
McCutcheon said doctors from the U.S. Embassy, the White House and USOC have monitored Barbara Bachman's condition, which was upgraded on Monday from critical to serious, as has a doctor provided by an Olympic sponsor. Still, there is no indication about how long she will be in the hospital or how likely she is to recover.
As a result, McCutcheon has not made a decision about returning to his team, saying, "We haven't closed that door yet."
He watched part of the Americans' first match, a five-game preliminary-round victory over Venezuela, but has spent little time thinking about volleyball.
"Volleyball is my job and my family is my life so that's been a very easy distinction to make for me," he said.
When asked if he was angry, he said no. "It hurts," he added. "I think it's something that no one should have to go through."
Someone mentioned to McCutcheon that the death seemed so unfair, an innocent man struck down in the middle of a family vacation in a supposedly safe city.
"But life's not fair so it's never going to be about that stuff," he said. "At the end of the day it happened. And it seems the sooner we can come to grips with that and kind of process it, the better off we're going to be."
The two men had not had the chance to speak in the week leading up to the attack. McCutcheon was busy with his team and Todd Bachman was touring the city. Bachman sent a congratulatory e-mail a couple of days before his death. The night before he was slain, Bachman attended the Opening Ceremonies and sent a text message of support to McCutcheon right before the U.S. delegation marched into the stadium.
"I believe that random acts of violence are random acts of violence," McCutcheon said, adding that neither Chinese nor American authorities believes the killing was premeditated. "It was clearly a case of the wrong place at the wrong time."