What We Remember: The Deaths of Cooper and Makenzie Young
I was a sixth grader when it happened, and though I may have been young, I’ll never forget. On May 2, 2000, Janice Young shot her three children and herself. Sydney, the oldest at age 12, survived, but Cooper, who was nine, and Makenzie, who was four, both died. These events shocked our community of Chelsea. We were a small town made up of good people, and things like this just weren’t supposed to happen here. Janice and her husband Danny were good people, good parents, and it just didn’t make sense. The adults in Chelsea tried to make sense of what had happened, and, of course, this led to the circulation of rumors and hypotheses. People speculated that someone else had done the shooting and that it was made to look like a murder-suicide. There were the rumors that Danny owed some tough guys money and this was the way they were getting payback; people said that the FBI took the front door, and that had to mean something. As time went on, the adults began to accept the story they were given, but they still wanted to know more. They wanted to know the chemical in Janice’s brain that made her do this; they wanted to know what disease she had because everyone knew that Janice was not a cruel person and that there was no question that she loved her children. That sentiment might seem odd to people, but I get it. Janice didn’t kill her children because she wanted to bring harm to them. Though we’ll never confirm it, I’m sure Janice thought she was protecting her children from something and that death would be better than what she thought was to come. Those of us who were kids were more removed from all of the rumors, and for that, I am grateful—it was hard enough coping with Cooper and Makenzie’s deaths without wondering why Janice had done it. But, while conducting interviews with people about their memories of Cooper and Makenzie and the affect their deaths had on the community, I’ve heard plenty of speculations. And even though I understand that people want to find out why it happened, I don’t want to. I’d rather focus on memories of Cooper and Makenzie’s lives and how the community coped with their deaths. Following the deaths of Cooper and Makenzie, every time Danny saw my mom, he would grab onto her hand and say “Remember Cooper, Remember Makenzie. I’m so afraid people will forget. Remember them.” That was my original inspiration to write this: to make sure people don’t forget. It was frustrating, then, when I would describe what my project was and people would misinterpret my intentions. At first, I didn’t have the words to describe my thoughts on the matter. And then I spoke with John Daniels, a family friend of the Youngs, and he gave them to me. “The bottom line is, it happened, and now [we should ask ourselves], ‘What can we do to move forward?’ And ‘What can we do to remember Cooper and Makenzie in a positive sense?’ And ‘What can we do to help Danny and Sydney the best we can?’” Sydney, this piece is for you. I want you to hear what people remember about Cooper and Makenzie, and I want you to know just how much they meant to the people who knew them. I want you to know that we’ll never forget.