On this Monday, April 15, 2019 picture, Jackie Fakler, co-owner of RJR Maintenance and Management, Than, North, Dakota, as she shows a wristband someone sent to her anonymously, to support after the massacre of four people at RJR on April 1, 2019. The dead included Fakler the man, Robert. The wrist band is decorated with the first initials of the four victims, together with charms connected with each other. (AP Photo Blake Nicholson)
THAN, N. D. – the Camaraderie was as important to the “coffee club” on RJR Maintenance and Management that the four non-official members often arrived at work early just to enjoy each other’s company, mugs in hand, for other employees arrived and the day began.
But that friendly peace and quiet was disrupted around 7:30 pm on April 1, when a person armed with a gun and a knife entered the company’s office building in Than, North Dakota, by the one door. Within 13 minutes, that four friends were the victims of the terrible, deadly attack.
Jackie Fakler memories of arriving at the building of the morning are bleak. She had planned to come to work with her husband, Robert — co-owner of the matter — but a last-minute decision sent him on ahead.
“I knew that Robert was there. I was not sure what happened,” Fakler said. “I knew that they were doing CPR on him. I knew nothing about the other three victims at the time. And then it was the panic, doing a head count with the employees — who was there, and who is not.”
Fakler said at first she thought that her husband had suffered a cardiac arrest.
“But when I saw blood on the floor, I knew it wasn’t a heart attack,” she said.
According to a police statement, the intruder attacked the four friends one by one. Robert Fakler was stabbed and cut multiple times. Adam Fuhrer, Bill Cobb and his wife, Lois, were all stabbed and shot. The attacker cut Lois Cobb’s neck.
Chad Isaak , a Washburn, a chiropractor, who lived in a property managed by RJR, is charged with four murders, but the police have not yet determined a motive. Those close to the victims say that they have no idea what the cause of the attack.
Office manager Deanna Finnie tagged the four, the coffee club, they claim that they could get through a whole pot before anyone else even arrived at work. Fakler said that collective defined the close-knit community on RJR.
“That is not, for most companies,” Fakler said. “They came just to spend time with each other before the working day.”
The Cobbs and Faklers were friends who sometimes years together. Fuhrer, would help in the Faklers’ hobby-farm and in return would get from a pig slaughtered per year. Company holiday parties usually have 100% attendance, and “this is the home of many people,” marketing executive Ben Pace said.
Confusion reigned, as other employees show up for the start of the work week, not long after the attack. The police blocked the road that leads to the RJR building in the busy Than the business district known as The Strip. Surviving colleagues were questioned by the police and media started to promote the release of more details about the murders, Pace said.
The company closed for two days.
“This is not something you just bounce back from,” Fakler said. “My head was turning a lot. We have everyone together that Tuesday after, and I asked the employees if they wanted to continue, and they all said yes.”
Two weeks later, idle chatter fills the reception area, phones ring regularly, and tenants to file in and out of doing things at the reception. Memories of Robert Fakler hobbies adorn the walls of the room — a picture of legend Dale Earnhardt, memorabilia of the local minor league baseball and hockey teams.
“It feels like it’s already a life, and blink all in the same time,” Pace said.
The security is increased, but it is not clear. People who are not treated differently than before.
“I can’t judge anyone who walks through my front door by one person,” Fakler said. “And I think we have a pretty good crew that understands that also.”
The support of the community helped, including a deluge of cards, good wishes and fundraising. For Jackie, someone mailed a box of the gift to the office, that a wrist band they estimate. It is adorned with the first initials of the four victims, together with charms connected with each other.
“For someone to just anonymously send it to me, it was, it is just amazing how people are,” Fakler said.
That support is helping the business move forward, along with the already tight bonds among employees.
“This incident is not our family, RJR family. We were before all this happened,” Finnie said.
But they acknowledge that RJR will not be the same without the “coffee club.”
“They could be jokesters about some of the stupidest things,” Fakler said: laugh and cry at the same time.
“It would be nice to hear the laughter in the back when they would start. I think it’s a thing, I don’t know if that will ever come back.”
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