Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder
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In this powerful and unforgettable memoir, award-winning writer Amy Butcher examines the shattering consequences of failing a friend when she felt he needed one most. Four weeks before their college graduation, twenty-one-year-old Kevin Schaeffer walked Amy Butcher to her home in their college town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Hours after parting ways with Amy, he fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Emily Silverstein. While he was awaiting trial, psychiatrists concluded that he had suffered an acute psychotic break. Although severely affected by Kevin’s crime, Amy remained devoted to him as a friend, believing that his actions were the direct result of his untreated illness. Over time, she became obsessed—determined to discover the narrative that explained what Kevin had done. The tragedy deeply shook her concept of reality, disrupted her sense of right and wrong, and dismantled every conceivable notion she’d established about herself and her relation to the world. Eventually realizing that she would never have the answers, or find personal peace, unless she went after it herself, Amy returned to Gettysburg—the first time in three years since graduation—to sift through hundreds of pages of public records: mental health evaluations, detectives’ notes, inventories of evidence, search warrants, testimonies, and even Kevin’s own confession.
Visiting Hours is Amy Butcher’s deeply personal, heart-wrenching exploration of how trauma affects memory and the way a friendship changes and often strengthens through seemingly insurmountable challenges. Ultimately, it’s a testament to the bonds we share with others and the profound resilience and strength of the human spirit.
riverbed trailer parks and one-lane bridges and gravel dead-end drives. I imagined fields of yellow that stretched outward, tall, thin strands of wheat, women wearing denim overalls and wide-brimmed hats in prairie grass. In Iowa, I learned, even time would be different. There’ll be complications phoning home, I thought, though of course this wasn’t true. I imagined the desolate, heartbreaking landscapes and how I’d shape them into something beautiful. Pennsylvania was gorgeous but it was
food onto paper plates: lasagna or baked ziti, baked chicken breasts, spaghetti—whatever someone had found the time or the energy to make—and we served it from cheap aluminum we could dispose of when the night was through. Those first few days, it was like a video game: as if in finding a hidden scroll, we could undo everything that had happened. As if in determining a magic code, we could bring Emily back to life. It just doesn’t make sense, we said again and again. There had to be
photograph. I nudge her, hold up my camera, and say, “Please?” I say, “Would you mind?” I pose beside a referee, a soccer player, and a banana. Of the many photos of that night, Emily is only ever the glittering black wings in the background of my posing. Me, beside a cupcake decorated like a spider. Me, beside a pumpkin. Me, dressed in yellow, a flirty bumblebee in black high heels. I had no way of knowing then that many years and a thousand miles removed from that night, that town, that
shock. The team first identified and chemically labeled the cluster of brain cells responsible for the formation of memory, then placed the mice in an environment where they were safe from electric shock. The following day, the team put them in another environment, this time administering the shock while simultaneously stimulating the previous day’s memory cells. On the third day, the mice were reintroduced to their first environment, and as a result, they froze in anticipation—proof that a false
oak trees and in shallow ditches. They lay along creeks and riverbeds, wooded plains, forested hillsides. Our town became a giant graveyard, bodies stiffening in the stifling sun. But, of course, that wouldn’t do—these were men who’d given their lives for a cause the whole nation would soon embrace, so Abraham Lincoln dedicated vast portions of Gettysburg’s battlefields to the creation of a new cemetery, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and the bodies were exhumed and reinterred. Four months