CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnBostonrnby Eugene NairettrnThe Return ofrnKatherine Ann PowerrnLast fall, an editor at my suburbanrnBoston daily urged readers to reflect onrn”a personal essay, lyrical but not flowery,”rnby one of our “neighbors” at thernMassachusetts Correctional Instituternin Framingham, the state penitentiaryrnfor women. “The least we can do,” hernwrote, “is put our ears against the tallrnbrick walls” and let Kathy Power tell usrnabout her “community.” This mightrnseem a modest and charitable request, ifrnthe name Katherine Ann Power didn’trnring a bell. But once the history that ledrnher to MCI is revisited, you may decidernyou know more than enough aboutrn”Kathy” without needing to absorb herrnlatest exercise in self-pity.rnOn September 23, 1970, there was anrnarmed robbery at the State Street Bankrnon Western Avenue in the Brighton sectionrnof Boston. Two men and one womanrnburst in, shouted “we mean business,”rnand hred into the walls. It was politicallyrnmotivated violence: the stolen cash wasrnto finance attacks on “the state,” andrnsomehow impede the war in Vietnam.rnThe armed robbers were Susan Saxe,rnWilliam Gilday, and Stanley Bond. Thernlast two were high school dropouts andrnex-cons, attending Brandeis Universityrnas “special students,” under an earlv typernof affirmative action. They stored theirrnweapons and stolen ammo in the apartmentrnof fellow student Katherine Power,rna rich girl from Denver, who shared theirrnpolitical and criminal agenda.rnWhen the three robbers emergedrnonto Western Avenue, officer WalterrnSchroeder, a father of ten, had respondedrnto a call and was waiting behind hisrnpatrol car. With a burst of machine-gunrnfire, Gilday shot and mortally woundedrnSchroeder, who died a few hours later. Arnmile from the bank, the criminalsrnhopped into the “switch” car driven byrnPower. Soon afterward, Cilday, Bond,rnand Saxe were caught; Power vanished.rnIn 1984, assuming she was dead or out ofrnthe country, the FBI removed her fromrnits Most Wanted List. A little more thanrnthree years ago, she reappeared in Bostonrnand became a celebrity.rnHaving negotiated surrender to thernFBI via several big-shot lawyers, Power isrnserving 8 to 12 years for manslaughter,rnbut she still sees herself as victim andrnheroine in an epic of youthful idealism.rn”I seem to be a carrier for a lot of people’srnstuff,” she writes, adroitly using New Agernidiom to shift responsibility for her imprisonmentrnonto the presumed emotionalrnneeds of other people.rnIt is hard to blame Power completelyrnfor her confused self-image. She has hadrnand still has noisy cheerleaders. The politicalrnclimate in the Boston area hasrnbeen so disordered for so long that whenrnPower surrendered, the media, and somernpublic officials, exalted her. A lawyerrncalled her “an icon for public morality,”rnand a district attorney praised her ethics.rnA reporter who interviewed her in 1994rnwrote that Power’s life as a fugitivern”exemplified charity, nonviolence, andrnsocial activism.”rnWhat had Power done to earn thisrnChrist-like accolade? After her accomplicesrnkilled Offlcer Schroeder, she disappearedrninto an underground of feministrnsafe-houses and speculum parties.rnTo disguise her identitv, she took thernname of an infant, Alice Metzinger, whornhad died in 1948, the year Power wasrnborn. During her shrewd getaway. Powerrnconned the government for small businessrnloans, cooked gourmet health food,rnand ran a chain of restaurants. She worernBirkenstock sandals (when she surrendered,rnthe media highlighted this fact),rnsorted through sex partners, and hadrnan illegitimate child (she remains unsurernof the child’s paternity). She was veryrn”right on.” The fact that she cooked polentarnwas itself nearly enough to acquitrnher in the Boston Globe. Those who celebratedrnher hardly noticed that herrn”charity” did not include service to WalterrnSchroeder’s widow, Marie, or to thernten fatherless children. But then, likernDaniel Faulkner, the police officer shotrnto death by Mumia Abu-Jamal inrnPhiladelphia, Walter Schroeder was arnwhite man whose death scarcely registersrnwith promoters of “social justice.”rnWhile left-wing reportage swoonedrnover Power’s “nonhierarchical anarchistrnvalues,” a few who worked for her outrnWest offered a different portrait. Onernremembered her as “a strong presence inrnthe kitchen, not known for toleratingrnmistakes. She’d yell at you in a voice yourncould hear through a closed door.” Anotherrnacquaintance recalled that Powerrnhad instructed her young son not to askrnabout extended family. “Doesn’t he everrnwonder about it?” a former friend hadrnasked. “No,” Power replied. “He knowsrnwe don’t talk about that.” Her recentrncolumns suggest that Power remains toornabsorbed in self-exploration to focus onrnher son’s dilemma. While her essays oftenrnexpatiate on cosmetic matters, shernhas yet to mention missing her son orrnhusband.rnAlong with her aesthetic focus on dietrnand appearance, as an idealist. Powerrnremains more interested in motives thanrnrelationships. She feels she had goodrnreason for her actions in college, was virtuallyrncompelled to do as she did. “I wasrnlooking for a nonviolent way to act effectivelyrn[against the war], but it didn’t exist,”rnshe told an interviewer. A NationalrnMerit Scholar, Power claimed there wasrnno way a person could protest the war inrnVietnam without participating in armedrnrobberv. Circumstances made her do it.rnShe was the real victim, a victim of herrntimes. Reporters eagerly regurgitatedrnthis convenient theorizing.rnWalter Schroeder’s daughter Clare,rnnow 43 and newly retired from the policernforce in Waltham, Massachusetts, offersrna clearer anahsis of Power’s confusion.rn”She’s a very bright woman,” Schroederrnnoted. “All of the ammunition andrnweapons were stored in her apartment.rnThere had to be a thought [her accomplices]rnwere going to use it.” Power wasrnso absorbed in the event’s existential valuernfor her that its obvious potential harmrnto others dwindled to insignificance.rnBut Boston’s major newspaper, thernGlobe, assures readers that Power is notrnMAY 1997/33rnrnrn