Though I was only 11 in the summer of 1966, it was the first time on the south side of Chicago, we had a evening curfew. Because the killer had not been caught. The night of July 14th was a cloudy, humid day, similar to the weather before a storm; silent, beckoning.
And we all went into our homes before the curfew began even the troublesome boys listened to their city’s request. The neighborhood streets were vacant which was completely out of nature for a warm summer night. We couldn’t play with our phones, all we could do is watch TV, the unfolding drama. Porches were empty. Even those were not safe.
Chicago was ready and waiting to catch Richard Speck, who had stabbed, strangled and raped eight student nurses that worked at South Chicago Hospital; one nurse had survived and who escaped by hiding under a bed. I had been hospitalized at South Chicago Community Hospital only a few years before with a broken arm. That was my neighborhood trauma zone and the two story townhouse had only been a mile from the safety of my block.
On July 15th, me, my girlfriend and her Mom was doing errands. Errands that took us by the town home where the second flood murders had occurred. Lines of cars crawled past what was usually a busy, no nonsense street. The picture window was black, the glass had been removed…a light bulb hung from the dark living room with yellow tape across the window, house. Policemen were everywhere on the grass, in and out and directing traffic. I will never forgot the bleak glassless window. A single bulb telling us to stay away.
Speck was found in Chicago at Cook County Hospital where a doctor recognized him and called the police on July 16th. Richard Speck had over 30 arrest records and was sentenced to the death penalty initially but the Supreme Court invalidated that law. He ended up with 400 years in prison and died of a heart attack on December 5, 1991.
Though not much of a newspaper reader at the time, it was always during traumatic events that you remember the historic headlines, the pictures of tragedy when you see them again years later.
I still remember the eight nurses; attractive, healthy, accomplished and in a child’s mind at the time, wondered if the same thing could happen to me. How could that happen to such beauty? Could I be gunned down by Richard Speck or someone like him? Do I want to grow up? That’s what we thought back then. Not the beauty of young adulthood waiting for me. Another lesson in fear.
Corazon Amurao, who survived the ordeal, was not deterred from her goal and went on to become a critical care nurse in Washington, D.C and has a daughter who is also a nurse.
And I still remember the light bulb.
Photo courtesy of Chicago Crimes Scenes