The LuLac Edition #2207, September 25th, 2012
OF AGNES, BANKS AND OUR HEARTToday is the 30th anniversary of the George Banks rampage in the Wyoming Valley. If Agnes with its destruction of 1972 nearly broke our collective hearts, the actions of George Banks in 1982 exposed our collective soul to the modern world of madness and crime. Prior to the Banks massacre, we were a community that believed nothing horrific would happen in our little backyard. When there was a criminal action, like a crime of passion or random murder, my late mother in law was fond of saying “They’re not our people, they would never do anything like that”. And in a way, she was correct. There were crimes of passion and thuggery but nothing as wide scale as what happened with George Banks. He was one of us. He lived in the city. He had relationships and children with the daughters of people who lived here. Then he killed them. This act showed clearly that the madness finally came to the Valley With the Heart. We were exposed to the vagaries of the Mental Health system. How could they miss a guy like this? How could a guy like this get hired by the state of Pennsylvania twice? How could a man kill his own children and the women who bore them? Easy. His tee shirt said it, “Kill ‘em and let God sort them out”. Innocent bystanders died.
As much as I hate to admit, George Banks changed this area’s soul. When all this happened, I worked for United Way. A guy that was one of the UW volunteers at the time was the late Ray McGarry. McGarry worked for Bell Telephone but also was a police official in Jenkins Township. He was about 6’5 and 320. This huge man was reduced to a mass of tears when he saw the bodies of those little children shot to death. Big men like Ray McGarry would never forget that scene. The anger in the Valley was evident. The social and religious leaders tried to justify it but many weren’t buying. People who were at once tolerant became less so. The Valley with the Heart became the land of reality and skeptical. Skeptical of anyone different coming to their neighborhoods. Then there was Banks himself. Going through the trial stoic and uncooperative. The Judge, Patrick Toole Senior did his best to get through the trial without incident. But publicly appointed defense attorneys have strung this out for three decades. Every legal battle became a reminder of George Banks and his madness. Even his deterioration and imprisonment hasn’t made him a sympathetic figure. He is still the champ when it comes to the death toll of innocent victims. Maybe that’s what he was aiming for.
We are all changed because of this day thirty years ago. As we live our lives, the tragedy of it recedes. But on the days when Banks is in court and we are reminded that he is still nipping at our souls, the band aid on the wound opens up. There are many people commemorating the day. The newspapers ran special editions. People in the media talked about it. Some old enough to be around talked about it. The more righteous of us went to church to say a prayer for the dead.
Those dead by the way all would be in their mid thirties or early forties. How many of those slaughtered might have contributed something meaningful to this area had they lived?It is for that reason that I’m still for the death penalty. I’m asked how can a liberal left winger socialist like me be for the death penalty? The answer is obvious. Those women (whatever your opinion of their moral choice) and innocent children are in cold dark graves. Dead. By the madness and hand of Mr. Tough Guy George Banks who the last thirty years has become as weak as a kitten. But George Banks still lives, sucking the life out of the Wyoming Valley’s soul. Just as he did three decades ago today.