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Learning life lessons in tragedy

Bob McIntosh's story came home to a new generation of Squamish youth Tuesday (Oct. 12).

Bob McIntosh's story came home to a new generation of Squamish youth Tuesday (Oct. 12).

Katy Hutchison, widow of the prominent local lawyer and triathlete who was brutally killed at a New Year's Eve house party in 1997, presented "The Story of Bob" to students at Howe Sound Secondary and Don Ross Secondary schools.

The purpose of her emotional presentation was to encourage the students about to have social responsibility and make good choices.

After she introduced McIntosh and explained what happened to him, she described synergy.

"The power of a group is much, much greater then the sum of its parts," she said, explaining for example, that a group of people is better at problem solving then just one person.

But synergy can look really different when there are drugs and alcohol involved, she said."People feel quite anonymous. They don't feel responsible for their actions."

She said it was a "mob mentality" that led to McIntosh being killed. And no one from the party called 911 when the party started to get out of control and large amounts of alcohol and drugs were being used.

"We all aspire to feel connected to other people," she said. 'We're made to feel we can't step out from the group."

But she said people need to take a stand and call the 911 when they see trouble.

Hutchison asked the students if McIntosh had done the right thing by going to the house party and trying to break it up and find the teen who lived at the home and who it was later discovered had left the party.

All but one of the students who answered responded by saying yes.

But Hutchison said the right thing for him to have done was call the police.

Hutchison also brought up entitlement and how it effects judgment."The kids felt like they had a right to be there," she said.

And when McIntosh suggested they leave, they got angry and beat him to death.

Hutchison showed a picture of Ryan Aldridge, was convicted of manslaughter in McIntosh's death more than five years after the tragedy.

"He looks like the boy next door," she said. "Basically, he was the boy from Squamish."

When police asked Aldridge why he kicked McIntosh to death, he said he was angry. Hutchison has felt many emotions since that night, but anger was never one of them.

"Anger is a dead end," she said. "It was anger that got Bob killed to begin with."

After Aldridge was arrested, Hutchison told the police that she wanted to meet him. She said she wanted to talk about what happened, and what they could do about it. She had worked to help her family and to start healing emotionally.

"It was time for Ryan to do some work," she said.

She recorded a video explaining to him what had happened to her and her family over the years since the murder, and what McIntosh had meant to her and her two children. And she asked him to confess, which he did after seeing the video.

And then the two met."My heart was coming out of my mouth, I'm so afraid," Hutchison told the students.

"They had taken away his shoes, and that really bothered me," she said.

Aldridge was sobbing and "it was all I could do not to reach out and give him a hug," she said.

However, she had two more things to ask of Aldridge. First, she asked him to plead guilty. And then she offered him a job presenting "The Story of Bob" with her.

Aldridge is still serving his sentence, but in the meantime he has written a letter for Hutchison to read at her presentations.

What surprised Hutchison about what he wrote was that his life and was so much like everyone else's.

"It's not remarkable at all," she said. "It's simply about the choices you make."

Aldridge got into the wrong things, drinking and drugs, and he didn't tell his family or look for support, he said. He made bad choices - and he paid for them.

"Doing jail time is easy compared to the guilt I need to live with for the rest of my life," he wrote in the letter.

Which brought Hutchison to her last point. "You are the one that can make good decisions," she told the students.

She told the students to remember how McIntosh lived, and not how he died.

"He gave life 110 per cent," she said.

He put value on friendships and doing the right thing and those are important lessons.

The students applauded loudly at the end of the presentation, and a few hugged her and thanked her for coming.

"It moved me," said Ian Bruce, a Grade 11 student. "Hearing it from her point of view, I did feel sick. I still feel sick."

Jessica Walker, a Grade 12 student, said her mother had been one of McIntosh's clients.

"It was like reliving it again," she said. "I'll think about how people act when the are drunk."

For those who hadn't heard the story before, it was a challenging lesson.

"I started to cry," said Katia Grondin, a Grade 11 student. "I never heard the story."