The Rev. Don Harp of the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church wishes he had more answers. He would like to be able to erase the hurt and uneasiness that has seized this community. He would like to guarantee that things will get better, that it is not so risky, in today's world, simply to go to work.
But in a city that has experienced one of its most brutal Julys ever--with 23 people dead in three high-profile shootings alone--and in a nation where violent acts seem to be piling up, he knows there is no easy response.
Harp's stately white church, which has 5,100 members, is just two blocks from the latest tragedy to beset this metropolitan area of 3 million--the slaying of nine people Thursday at two brokerage firms. It will be the setting Wednesday for a noontime citywide memorial service, requested by Mayor Bill Campbell, to remember the shooting victims.
"It's a case of 'Lord, come and heal our broken spirits,' " Harp said today. "It has not been a good time for us across America, and I don't really know what to think about it. The world would pay us a lot if we knew how to solve this fear."
This time, Harp was saddened to discover that he knew one of the victims, Joseph J. Dessert, 60, of Marietta. As Dessert pursued his hobby of day-trading, he was slain by disturbed gunman Mark O. Barton, who killed himself Thursday night after eluding police for several hours. Barton, 44, had earlier killed his wife and two children before opening fire at the two firms.
"It comes home to you when it's somebody you saw a couple of weeks ago out on the tennis court playing," said Harp, a golfer who belonged to the same club as Dessert. "If we had any innocence left, this feels like it has stripped it away."
Thursday's shootings and the Barton family deaths--13 dead in all--brought a particularly bloody month to a close in this city, which prides itself on being the progressive center of the New South. On July 12, three adults and four children were found dead in a house here; the only surviving child said his stepfather had attacked the family and then killed himself. Then on July 23-24, two Cobb County police officers were killed during an all-night standoff; the gunman was shot to death by sheriff's deputies. And now, this, what will be remembered as one of the deadliest workplace shootings in U.S. history.
"When a person goes off the deep end like this, it can be anywhere at any time," said Atlanta Police Chief Beverly Harvard. "It was so quick and so fast. So many people at one time. It becomes even more devastating because of that."
Barton's victims at Momentum Securities and the All-Tech Investment Group in the upscale Buckhead district included a 30-year-old St. Louis man who recently had moved to Atlanta to pursue his love of day-trading, a 38-year-old office manager at Momentum who reportedly was looking forward to moving back to his native Texas, and a 52-year-old native of India who was working on completing his dream home in north Fulton County.
Ten of the 13 people injured in the shooting remained hospitalized today, but at least two of them were expected to be released this weekend.
In suburban Peachtree City, relatives today were mourning the loss of the only woman killed in the rampage, Vadewattee Muralidhara, 44, a native of Trinidad and Tobago who had been a trainee at All-Tech.
"She was a very caring woman, a good mother who would do anything for her family," said a cousin, Shantsa Raju. "She was trying to learn something new." Muralidhara is survived by her husband, Kesturkoppal, a pediatrician who was born in India, and a son and daughter, Rishi, 18, and Arti, 20, both college students.
Another casualty, Edward Quinn, 58, only dabbled in stocks between rounds of golf, his youngest son, Scott, 23, said today. Retired from UPS after 31 years, Quinn had worked his way up at the company from washing trucks to a corporate position. The father of three was still excited about the birth of his first grandchild, a boy named Bryce, three weeks ago.
"At least Dad got to hold him," Scott Quinn said. "He was the best man. He worked hard all his life, and he was trying to enjoy his retirement. He was a real outdoorsman. We were going on a fly-fishing trip to Montana in three weeks."
At the Or Ve Shalom synagogue here, members are still trying to reconcile the loss of their president since January 1998, Allen Tenenbaum. Tenenbaum, 48, who was buried Friday, ran one of his family's Great Savings Grocery stores in the predominantly black West End neighborhood of Atlanta and also owned a company called Secretaries Unlimited, which has two locations here.
An avid runner who participated annually in the Peachtree Road Race, the city's famed 10-kilometer run, Tenenbaum had a set routine. He would trade stocks in the mornings, then visit his grocery store, put in an afternoon session of trading, then check in on his secretarial company. A father of three--Brittany, 13, Megan, 11, and Scott, 3--he had been married to his wife, Debra, for 19 years.
"You don't become the president of the synagogue by an election or campaigning against someone," said Jack Arogeti, vice president of the synagogue. "You are asked. Allen was asked to serve because he had demonstrated his leadership qualities.
"People always knew how much Allen cared," he continued. "When I left my job of 22 years with an ad agency after a merger and Allen heard about it, he offered me the use of his facilities at his business. I didn't ask. He just did it. That was quintessential Allen to do whatever he could, whatever was in his power to help, because that was his nature.
"His nature was giving and helping."
Special correspondent Jonathan Ingram contributed to this report.