BRYN MAWR — Known as Minneapolis’ tucked-away “neighborhood within a park,” Bryn Mawr fosters the image of a bucolic small town, a place of tidy bungalows and Victorian homes, of impressive gardens and a little cluster of businesses residents affectionately call “downtown.”
Those neighbors encountered an entirely different image of Bryn Mawr as they arrived home from work one warm evening early last fall.
Lit-up squad cars and ambulances clogged Penn Avenue, the main thoroughfare. Yellow police tape cut off access to side streets. And as Kathryn Kaatz navigated the cordon in her car, she watched a SWAT team clad in black body armor run by in a pack.
The Sept. 27 shooting inside Accent Signage Systems, a family-owned manufacturing business, left six people dead. One of the worst workplace shootings ever in Minnesota, the incident shocked the city and rattled neighbors, who gathered that night for a candlelight vigil on the lawn of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.
The next day Kaatz walked over to Accent Signage to add a bouquet to the growing memorial of flowers, cards and candles. The items were arrayed around a flagpole at one corner of the long, low building overlooking Bassett’s Creek.
Kaatz said there were still police and TV news crews at the site, but they eventually packed up and drove away. When just a small group of neighbors was left, one of them walked over and lowered the flag to half-staff.
“That was a really powerful moment,” she said.
Months before the September anniversary of the shooting, Kaatz and several others began work on a plan to “reframe a place of tragedy,” as she put it. With the Bryn Mawr Garden of Hope and Healing, they aim to remake a place associated with violence into one of peace.
Fired, then violence
The violence inside Accent Signage was swift and devastating. Police later said the shooting lasted only 10–15 minutes.
Among the dead was the company’s owner and founder, 61-year-old Reuven Rahamim. Also killed were Rami Cooks, Ronald Edberg, Jacob Bruce Beneke and Keith Basinski, a UPS driver whose van was parked at the building’s loading dock.
The shooter was identified as Andrew Engeldinger, 36, a longtime employee who’d been reprimanded for tardiness and poor performance. Engeldinger’s rampage began in the small office where he’d been told he was fired. It ended in the building’s basement, where he shot himself.
His parents later said he struggled with mental illness. He had grown distant.
A statement released by the company several days before the one-year anniversary thanked its customers and the community for support over the past year and asked for privacy. It continued: “We would ask that you keep our fallen colleagues, their families, and our staff in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.”
Tami Galvin, who has been working with Kaatz on the garden project, said Basinski was for many Bryn Mawr residents their personal tie to the tragedy. The youthful UPS driver spent years on the neighborhood route, and was widely recognized.
Said Galvin: “I didn’t know him, but he pretty much came to our house or by it every day.”
“A sign of life”
While not explicitly a memorial, the Bryn Mawr Garden of Hope and Healing is planned for a grassy hillside between Accent Signage and a nearby park. The site overlooks Bassett’s Creek, flowing just beyond a disused railway overgrown with weeds.
Kaatz and Galvin visited the site in mid-September with Patrick Waddick, the third member of their small committee. An architect, Waddick was also at work on an ongoing remodeling project at Accent Signage.
One corner of the building’s exterior was covered in grey-white primer in preparation for a new paint job. Among other changes inside the building, new picture windows are intended to bring light into the interior of the building while giving employees a view of Bassett’s Creek, Waddick said.
“Water is a sign of life, and this is moving water,” he added, motioning to the creek below.
The future garden site is what’s known as a “paper street” — an extension of Russell Avenue that remains city right-of-way but is undeveloped. Erica Prosser, an aide to Mayor R.T. Rybak, said the mayor is “supportive of the concept,” but there are complications: vacating the paper street requires City Council approval, and a potential owner of the garden property has yet to be identified.
Galvin, Kaatz and Waddick planned to engage the community in the garden design process. The next challenge would be raising funds to establish and maintain the garden, but they were convinced Bryn Mawr is up to it.
Said Galvin: “This neighborhood won’t forget.”
>>> Bryn Mawr remembers
A brief candlelight vigil marking the one-year anniversary of the Accent Signage shootings will take place 6:30 p.m.–7 p.m. Sept. 27.
The gathering will begin at Anwatin Middle School, 256 Upton Ave. S., and then proceed on foot to Accent Signage, 2322 Chestnut Ave. W.
Volunteers are needed the following morning for a cleanup at the proposed Bryn Mawr Garden of Hope and Healing site adjacent to Accent Signage. The cleanup runs 8 a.m.–noon Sept. 28, followed by a potluck lunch. Volunteers should bring gloves and tools for clearing brush.