“While the City Slept” and Why It’s Important: Part One

“While the City Slept” and Why It’s Important: Part One

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 1.22.37 PM

A three-part reflection by Rachel Ebeling, co-founder of Angel Band Project

Yesterday, February 2, 2016, a new book was released by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eli Sanders.  “While the City Slept” traces the lives of the three people whose lives tragically intersected on July 19, 2009.  Jennifer Hopper, Teresa Butz, and Isaiah Kalebu.  This is not a new story for us, by any means, because I had the pleasure of growing up with feisty Teresa in south St. Louis in the 1970s.  We met on the first day of kindergarten at St. Stephen’s Protomartyr Catholic School.  Wearing freshly pressed red plaid jumpers and wearing little ties around our necks that snapped under our white collars, three 6 year olds were introduced into kindergarten by Mrs. Lang.  Teresa Butz, Jean Haegele, and Rachel Rankin.  Little did we know on that first day where our friendship would take us.

Teresa was number 9 in a family of 11 children.  In the 70’s, we experienced freedoms that are certainly not a part of childhood in the new millennium.  We walked to school, walked home for lunch, hung out at the quick shop after school without any care that we needed to be home to show our parents we were still alive, wandered the neighborhood like banshees.  We walked to the movie theater on Friday nights, snuck into R movies, hocked cigarettes from older siblings, and held dance parties late at night when Teresa’s parents were out of town.  Not that we were bad kids.  We were normal kids full of curiosity about our world, our boundaries, ourselves.

Jean, Teresa and I channeled our tendencies for getting into trouble in three healthier ways: 1) speech meets 2) school plays 3) sports.  Jean and I were much better at numbers 1 and 2 than 3; Teresa was actually good at all 3.  But these extracurriculars led us to discover that we really liked each other, and could have good clean fun anywhere we wanted. Performing in front of an audience was our specialty, and running around the softball field after Teresa would hit a grand slam made us feel great. So a grade school friendship turned into a continuing high school bond that eventually felt more like a sisterhood.  If something great, or devastating, or heartbreaking occurred, it was Jean or Butz that got my phone call.

As many of us all know, Teresa was raped and murdered in her home in the early morning hours of July 19, 2009. She was in love with Jennifer Hopper, and the two were planning to get married in September that year.  But that was not to be, because Teresa died of the stab wounds to her chest after jumping out a window to escape their attacker.  Jen was also raped and stabbed repeatedly, but survived.

It’s been almost 6 1/2 years since this heinous tragedy occurred.  In some ways it feels like no time has passed, but other times I feel like it’s been longer.  I miss her shrieks of glee, her infectious smile, her crazy laugh, her thunderous clap.  I miss her sappy cards and her long-winded letters.  All of the inside jokes and smiles that friendship for 35 years brings to life.

Eli has taken great care to tell the story of Teresa, Jen, and Isaiah Kalebu and what made them tick.  He analyzes the breakdown in our country’s mental health system, and perhaps if more attention had to been given to Isaiah’s troubled mental state much sooner in his life, July 19th would have never been labeled the date of the infamous South Park Attacks in Seattle, Washington.

Buy the book, read it for yourself. While the City Slept



  1. I am so sorry for the pain you must endure everyday from losing your friend. This book should be required reading for every politician in the US. Waiting until a mentally ill person commits rape or murder to address the problem is not a solution. As the author points out, it costs more for court proceedings, evaluations, and life time prison housing than it does to provide the proper care before a crime.

    • Thank you Shirley for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. Yes, I agree 100% with your thoughts. Thank you for your kind words, it is hard to lose a friend in such a devastating manner. But we are helping other survivors heal through music therapy, so we’ve channeled the pain into something positive.

  2. I am not sure if I will be able to read the book at this stage of my life but I will buy it and either try or wait until I can. I would be reading it as a survivor and as a mother of a troubled son. I have FOUGHT, to survive and I have fought to help my son to get anger management,social service and psychological help/treatment as he shows signs of a Narcissistic personality disorder, like his father. They just “didn’t understand” 15 years ago. it is very hard to see both sides of this tragedy. I do hope that this book reaches all it should and makes the impact that we so desperately need. If it makes half the impact as The Angle Band project has made in my life so far and excitedly what it will in the near future, then there is HOPE. I know someday I will be able to thank Teresa for loving life and people so much that they were inspired to heal so many people. She and Jen are inspirations and I know I am just starting to change my pain to beauty. Thank you Rachel

    • Thank you Dawn for sharing your thoughts. You are a courageous survivor and we hope you can overcome the hardships in your life. We will continue to support all survivors on their journey of healing at the Angel Band Project.