Powell tragedy brings communities together in mourning

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SALT LAKE CITY — For many who never met the Josh or Susan Powell and their family, Sunday's murders and suicide still somehow seem personal.

Everyone wanted so badly for there to be a break in Susan's case — for there to be an arrest, or her body to be found — and everything about this ending feels wrong.


In the Over the Counter Cafe on Salt Lake's east bench Tuesday, a somber mood took over the morning regulars. The conversation dominated by the name Powell and talk of two innocent little boys, killed at the hands of their father.

"I think the whole state is in mourning over this," said diner Bob Lewis. "It's a sad story, a sad ending to a sad story."

Lewis said he feels the loss personally. As a father, he feels sympathy for Chuck Cox. "The poor family is probably suffering a lot," Lewis said.

The café's owner, Wayne Satsuda, said it's been on everyone's mind since the news broke. "When they had the investigations in Nevada, everybody was hopeful, I think, that something would come of this case."

Memorials, candlelight vigils, posts on social media sites — mostly from strangers with no personal connection to the case — are still popping up. Communication expert Matt Townsend said it's because we were all so invested in Susan's story, and wanting the best for her children, we're all feeling the impact of Josh Powell's actions.

We're going to suffer the tragedy of it at the end, as a community, and then what we'll do is we'll rise from it as a community.

–Matt Townsend, communication expert


"It was all very public. We suffered it," Townsend said. "We're going to suffer the tragedy of it at the end, as a community, and then what we'll do is we'll rise from it as a community."

Talking about it, mourning publicly, and expressing anger is all part of healing, Townsend said. It connects us and makes us feel we're doing something productive after something so horrific — as long as we use those emotions the right way.

"We don't want to follow Josh's lead and become bitter and angry and unable to let go of this," Townsend said. "Instead, now is the time when we turn it into something that we can use."

Townsend suggests directing those feelings toward being a better parent ourselves. You could also attend one of the vigils or donate to The Christmas Box House, as Susan Powell's family suggested.

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Jennifer Stagg


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