The Washington Post

The Krim family horror begets universal anxiety

Friends have been admitting to each other about their obsession with the story. Weekend get-togethers were dotted with hushed conversations about the details. Some parents, less publicly, contemplated reevaluating major decisions in the wake of the Krim family tragedy.

The horror story that unfolded in Manhattan late last week — a nanny accused of stabbing two children to death — is resonating with parents beyond other crime news, even other wretched stories that involve children.


(Bill Pugliano/GETTY IMAGES)

The Krim story is haunting so many because of all these elements, and something else, something we rarely acknowledge about ourselves and about human nature.

When a crime happens, we often scan the details, looking for a tidbit that differentiates ourselves from the crime victim.

Silently, maybe unconsciously, when we find it, we feel relived.

“Well, he was walking on 18th Street at 2a.m. I would never do that.”

“She was driving 12 miles above the speed limit. I don’t speed.”

“He was on his iPhone.”

“She wasn’t paying attention.”

“They lived in a higher crime area.”

It’s a phenomenon well documented in other areas of life. Psychologists label it “rationalization.” Safety and crime experts know it as the “it won’t happen to me” myth.

But the defense mechanism is failing when it comes to the Krims.

Their life certainly looked like one many families aspire to. We wish we might be able to afford an apartment in a gorgeous location in New York. We wish one parent’s income was enough to support another to stay home and also have some help.

We wish we might be able to manage three small children, look so carefree and happy, as the Krims do in their much-viewed Facebook photos. We wish we had the time, energy and inclination to keep this generation’s equivalent of a scrapbook, a family blog. We wish we might have found a caregiver from a trusted friend, instead of relying on our own gut instincts or from the recommendations of people we don’t know.

“They’re both very careful. She didn’t even leave the kids that much alone with this nanny, that’s the irony of all this,” Kevin Krim’s mother told the New York Times.

We wish that we were so close with that nanny that we would visit their families abroad.

“I don’t believe there could be a better family. I don’t understand what happened with the nanny. They gave her vacations and they were good to her, and I believe she was good with them,” Kevin Krim’s father told the Wall Street Journal.

Reading about the Krim family, it’s virtually impossible to find that “Aha, that’s what I would have done differently” moment.

In fact, it’s the opposite. I wish I was as engaged and conscientious as Marina Krim seemed to be.

The only conclusion we can draw then, is that our efforts to control the variables and keep danger at bay might be trumped by something as arbitrary and unpredictable as a sudden mental breakdown.

This has always been and will always be true. We just don’t often look the fact in the eye.

Yes, such murders are extremely rare. Exceedingly rare. So rare that such a thing may not happen again in our lifetimes.

But random, uncontrollable acts — car crashes, freak accidents, encounters with dangerous people — happen to good people every day. We are vulnerable too. The Krim news make us realize it, because it’s hard to blame them, consciously or unconsciously, even a tiny bit.

Have you found yourself following the Krim case? If so, what makes it so compelling to you?

Related stories:

A birthday party nightmare: Balancing safety and freedom

The Leiby Kletzky killing and walking to school


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