"Who Will Watch Over Me?" The Aloneness Of Sabrina Lalla-Mitchell

In this Tale From A Strange Land, the Strange Land is our aloneness as human beings and the savage ways in which this lesson is sometimes brought home to us. Sabrina Lalla-Mitchell left this life fighting to stay in it, surrounded more distantly by the people in her workplace and more immediately by an enraged ex-husband and her two young children, one of whom was actively engaged in trying to save her life. What were her last thoughts? What were the last images processed by her mind? Did she register this fact - as beautiful as it was tragic, that the child watching over her to the end was the one who needed her most to watch over him? - Her boy, who ignored his own physical weakness and safety to throw himself bodily into the fray to defend the mother that he loved.

By Stacy Moore
T&T's Newsday | Wednesday, October 27 2010

"Two young boys yesterday witnessed the brutal murder of their mother Sabrina Lalla Mitchell, 35, who was stabbed to death by a man with whom she ended an abusive relationship six months ago.

"Eleven-year-old Seth Mitchell and his brother Shayden, ten, watched as the man repeatedly stabbed their mother after he confronted her at her workplace at Bavarian Motors, Todd Street, San Fernando, where she was an assistant manager.

"The 36-year-old man begged Sabrina to reconcile with him and he attacked her when she refused. He then slit his wrists, ran out and got into his car which he crashed moments later in Gulf View.

"Although he was taken to the San Fernando General Hospital, sources said the man refused medical treatment and up to press time was reported to be in critical condition.

"Mitchell, however, was pronounced dead on arrival at the same hospital. Read more..."
The story is shocking enough, but then we learn that the son, a child only eleven years old, tried courageously and repeatedly to pull the assailant off of his mother while she was being murdered, the scene becomes even more poignant. But this is not all. The courageous child apparently had the maturity to appeal to the murderer's conscience,

"Seth said he tried to pull the man off of his mother and to convince him to stop stabbing her. “I tried to tell him if mummy’s dead who would look after us and he stopped and watched me but mummy was already on the floor and covered in a pool of blood and my school-clothes were covered in blood.”" Source
I don't know if I would have had the presence of mind to make such an intuitively, intelligent plea. It was the skill, I imagine, that would be expected of a hostage negotiator, yet this was only a young boy trying to break the assailant's blind fixation on venting his fury on his mother, trying desperately to reconnect the unhinged, adult human being with his humanity. This broke my heart and apparently it also touched the assailant because according to the child, upon hearing this plea he paused. The child was telling him that the repercussions of this act would affect more lives than just those of the two adults locked in mortal combat.

It was not enough. The mother of two would eventually succumb to the wounds and die.

The following day, more details emerged. The traumatised child continued to relive the horror of the experience, to recount in vivid detail, all his memories of the event. His maternal grandfather, Pastor Dennis Lalla, filled in the gaps about the abusive relationship to which his daughter had returned in the past but which she had finally recently ended.

However, there was another facet of horror to the story. Her father mentioned that other adult persons were present when his daughter was being brutally assaulted. I have no idea how long the entire incident took from the beginning of the attack to the death of Sabrina Lalla-Mitchell but it was long enough for her murderer to inflict twenty stabs to the upper part of her body. During this time Sabrina and her child were the only ones fighting for her life.

The details are still sketchy and these are just a distraught father's questions about the circumstances surrounding the death of his daughter. I sincerely hope that his fears are proven to be unfounded because if it is revealed that the adults present in that workplace were in the same area where this act was committed, that would be too much to bear.

"Son haunted by mom’s murder. ‘When I try to sleep I see my mother’s face."
By Radhica Sookraj
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian | 28 Oct 2010

"Meanwhile, the children’s grandfather, Pastor Dennis Lalla, questioned why nobody had bothered to save Sabrina-Lalla Mitchell, who was brutally slaughtered in front of a dozen witnesses, including her two children, at Bavarian Motors, San Fernando, on Tuesday afternoon. “Why didn’t anybody save my daughter?” Lalla said, after he witnessed the autopsy at the Forensic Science Centre, Port-of-Spain.

The autopsy revealed that Lalla-Mitchell was stabbed 20 times about the upper body. She died from shock and haemorrhage consistent with multiple wounds. The stabs punctured her left lung and ripped through her heart. The pathologist told Lalla she died about 12 minutes after a main artery to her brain was severed from her neck. Lalla said he saw every stab wound which defaced the body of his child. Saying he had forgiven the killer, Lalla was disappointed no one had intervened during the scuffle. He said: “My daughter put up a fight. While she was on the ground, she tried to brace and the knife cut her hand. Someone could have tried to save her. "

By Rhondor Dowlat and Stacy Moore
Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Thursday, October 28 2010

"Lalla questioned how the security guards, who were on duty at Bavarian Motors, as well six persons who were on the premises did not do anything to stop the attack on Sabrina.

“The security guards especially are their to protect. How can my grandson have the reaction to attempt to save his mother and those persons could not budge?” he asked."
Perhaps the excerpt below from the text "Introduction to Political Psychology" will provide some explanations for what causes people to hang back when they are needed most, when it is a matter of life and death for another or others. Although I understand the dynamics of it, I cannot excuse such behaviour and I hope that I will have the presence of mind to snap out of the fog of fear if I ever find myself in such a situation. Excuse me if you think I am being sexist but this is how I will see it until I die. Women and children must be defended at all costs and above all others from injury or the threat of injury.

"Seth: “I was watching them from a distance because, I don’t know, I was feeling something was wrong because his face was looking kind of angry but I did not say anything. I was just watching and then I saw him pull out a knife from his pocket,” Seth said. “I run fast from where I was, faster than a jet, I pushed everything that was in my sight. My shoes flung off, I wanted to save mummy so bad but he began to stab her. And I tried pulling him off her but he just continued stabbing and everybody was there in the room.”

"Seth said the man threatened to kill anyone if they got close to him. “Everyone was just so afraid but I wanted to save mummy but he already stabbed her so many times and he left. " Source


In New York City, one night in 1963, a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death. Her assailant beat and stabbed her for close to an hour, while dozens of people heard her screams and saw her being attacked, but did nothing. This tragic story is often used to illustrate the bystander phenomenon—when people do nothing to help others. Why does this happen? There is a tendency to blame the bystanders as being apathetic or uncaring. But researchers Latane and Darley (1970) argued that situational factors can explain the lack of

help given to Kitty Genovese. When people are bystanders in an emergency situation, they sometimes experience pluralistic ignorance. They do not know how to respond, so they look to others to see how to respond (much like informational social influence, described in chapter 4). The problem is, everyone is looking at everyone else to figure out how to respond. Unfortunately, the result is that bystanders become paralyzed and do not respond at all. A second situational determinant, which can often explain the lack of help given to those in emergency situations, is diffusion of responsibility. If you were the only person available to help, then you would have 100% of the responsibility to give help. But if just one other person is present, then your sense of responsibility drops to 50%. The more people who are present in a situation, the more diffused is responsibility. This is partly the result of group characteristics. When people are part of a group, there is a diffusion of responsibility, and people feel less compelled to intervene and help. Many analysts believe that the bystander phenomenon is a crucial component in genocide.

Bystanders know, at least implicitly, that something wrong is happening, but they do nothing about it. Bystanders can be a person, a group, an organization, or a country. Indeed, the entire international community knew about the genocide unfolding in Europe, and in Rwanda 50 years later, and did nothing. They engaged in denial. Stanley Cohen (2001) argues that denial “includes cognition (not acknowledging the facts); emotion (not feeling, not being disturbed); morality (not recognizing wrongness or responsibility); and action (not taking steps in response to knowledge)” (p. 9). Milburn and Conrad (1996) argue that, at the individual and social levels, denial is a product of an unwillingness to face a reality that is horrifically painful. This, they argue, stems from childhood denial of punitive parental treatment. Denial is also often a subtle social pressure. Everyone knows and no one admits what is happening. Those who do are condemned or ostracized by the group. To admit that something bad is happening is often threatening to the group's self-image, so avoiding or ignoring information is necessary to maintain the positive self-image, and to be complicit in the general denial. Hence, many Germans could ignore the evidence that Jews and others were being exterminated in death camps, because Germans are good people, and good people do not do such things. For individuals, not to be bystanders in the face of political violence is often difficult. They are often threatened with severe punishment, if not death; they do not know what to do or how to act; and they know that as individuals they have little power to do anything. Yet, some individuals do act, hiding a Jew or a Tutsi, managing to save lives, one at a time.

Denial comes in many forms. People deny that they inflicted pain (“It was an accident”), that an injury occurred (“No one was really hurt”), that the victim is a victim (“He deserved it”), or that they had no knowledge about atrocities. Denial also comes in degrees, from knowing about but refusing to believe information, to knowing but maintaining only a vague awareness of the facts, to knowing, being aware, and choosing to do nothing (Cohen, 2001). For example, arguments abound to this day as to how much ordinary Germans knew about the Holocaust, and those arguments will inevitably continue, because many Germans did not then, and cannot now, recognize the extent to which they knew, but did not attend to information about the extermination of Jews and others. As Laqueur (1980) wrote, “It is, in fact, quite likely that while many Germans thought that the Jews were no longer alive, they did not necessarily believe that they were dead” (p. 201).

The likelihood that people will engage in denial, and will refuse to help victims of violence, is augmented when there are many people involved (as in a crowd surrounding an accident victim), when the situation is ambiguous, and when people are fearful of the reaction of others. People are also influenced by the belief in a just world. They believe that the world is benevolent, and that bad things only happen to bad people. Therefore, if someone is hauled off by the SS, they must have done something wrong. This belief comforts people by letting them

think that the world is stable, certain, and predictable (Cohen, 2001; Staub, 1989;). These patterns can be seen in Germany and in Argentina, where bystanders abounded. In both cases, the information was, for many, very ambiguous. In both cases, there was no free press that provided concrete and undeniable information that atrocities were occurring. To speak out against regime policies was dangerous and deadly and was certainly discouraged by others, who did not want to rock the boat. And, as in so many cases of genocide and state terror, there was pride in a civilization that led people to believe that nothing so horrible could happen here.

In cases of state terror and genocide, there are always some people who help others and who speak out. The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo are an example. In Europe during the Holocaust, 90% of the Jewish population in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Hungary died. But 90% survived in Denmark, and, in Belgium, where there was resistance to German dictates for rounding up Jews, 53% survived (Staub, 1989). Studies of rescuers or altruists, as these brave people are called, have found that one central characteristic is an ability to empathize with others, to imagine themselves suffering in the same way (Beck, 1999; Cohen, 2001). Empathy is defined as “an'other centered' emotion which is produced by observing another individual in need and taking that individual's perspective” (Batson, 1991; Rumble, 2003, p. 8). Rumble (2003) cites numerous studies of empathy and notes that the evidence indicates that people will be empathetic when they see another person in need and when they can adopt that person's perspective. In addition, rescuers tend to have an ability to identify with humanity at large, rather than only with their families, local community, or country. Oliner and Oliner (1988) found, in a study of 406 people who attempted to rescue Jews during the Holocaust, that they also had a strong sense of personal responsibility. Finally, Cohen (2001) notes that “these people reacted instinctively: they did not look for accounts or neutralizations for why not to help” (p. 263)." Source: Introduction to Political Psychology. By Martha Cottam, Beth Dietz-Uhler, Elena Mastors, and Thomas Preston, Mahwah, NJ. : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004.
As the details emerge, this tragic story may prove to be yet another example of what the authors called "altruistic inertia" - when people do nothing to help others.

How does knowing how to describe this phenomenon help us to move on from here? Where do we learn to be afraid? It is natural for the individual to want to preserve his/her own life but we live in society, or so I am told, for a reason. We cannot survive as individuals. We need each other. We need community. Sabrina Lalla-Mitchell's story did not begin where it ended. She was raised in a family. The man who murdered her was also raised in a family. Where did they learn to be victim and aggressor? And even if they may have wished to abandon these roles, where could they have gone for help and support? They didn't need rescuers and heroes just at the end but at any point(s) along the trajectories that brought them to this horrific conclusion of their relationship.

We are alone when we use community only to supply our selfish needs. We are alone when we stand side by side, amazingly in sync, to protect our individual hides. Someone has to step forward to break the tyranny of the herd. Someone has to step out alone to break the aloneness, to move beyond the comfort zone of fear. We need to find the heroes in ourselves.

This story is not over. Pastor Lalla Dennis Lalla has promised to be a rescuer and hero to his two grandsons. He is fully aware of the possible repercussions of the trauma and has stated that he will make professional counselling available to his grandchildren. Seth especially should not be allowed to think for one second that he did not do enough to save his mother. He should know that he went above and beyond the strength of his little body and the responsibilities of his years, to try to intervene on her behalf, to be her hero. It is not over. We can all start paying close attention to the writing on the wall regarding all types of dysfunctionality. The interventions required are smaller, the earlier we offer them. As they say, that ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

My wish is for healing for all involved, the two individuals, their families, the witnesses, but not before we learn the lessons. We are meant to watch over each other. It is the only way that we will survive together.

PASTOR Dennis Lalla, father of murder victim Sabrina Lalla-Mitchell: “Seth looked at me and asked, ‘Who will watch over me now? Who will make me feel better? Because my mummy always hugged me and kissed me to make me feel better.’ I was so heart broken that I told him not to worry that I will watch over him and Shayden...” Source

HERO By Skillet

"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!