Beijing Olympics American Killed
Greg Baker  /  AP
Tourists stand in front of Beijing's Drum Tower, where a day earlier a relative of the U.S. Olympic men's volleyball coach was killed in a knife attack.
By contributor
updated 8/10/2008 5:45:34 AM ET 2008-08-10T09:45:34

This is an ongoing series of Olympics cultural reports Sunny Wu is filing from Beijing. Check back twice a day for 'The Buzz' and 'Nightlife.'

The Drum Tower was eerily quiet on Sunday afternoon. Residents were sitting on benches and curbs, fanning themselves to keep cool. Two kids were playing badminton in the small square, swatting the shuttlecock underneath the tower that was the scene of a horrific murder the day before.

The only reminders of Saturday's fatal stabbing of Todd Bachman and suicide of the murderer were the handful of cameramen and reporters milling around the square. The Drum Tower, and the Bell Tower across from it, was closed to visitors, a locked chain wrapped around the fence.

Bachman, his wife, Barbara, their daughter Elisabeth (a former U.S. Olympian and wife of Hugh McCutcheon, the head coach of the men's volleyball team) and a Chinese tour guide were visiting the 13th-century tower when they were attacked with a knife by Tang Yongming.

The 47-year-old Yongming leapt to his death after the attack.

Barbara suffered life-threatening injuries; she's in critical but stable condition after undergoing approximately eight hours of surgery. The Chinese tour guide was also injured.

Officials have said that the attack was a random act of violence, perpetrated by a disturbed individual.

"For all intents, it appears to be a random attack by a deranged man," Jim Easton, an International Olympic Committee official, told the Associated Press.

Foreign visitors, including Americans wearing U.S. shirts and draped in old Glory, interviewed at the Drum Tower and at the Olympic Green agreed. Most weren't taking any extra precautions, despite some concern that the attack was motivated by race and xenophobia.

Peter Cookson Smith, an Englishman who has lived in Hong Kong for 30 years, was one of the few tourists who was visiting and taking pictures of the Drum Tower. He had heard the news, but didn't know he was at the sight of the murder-suicide until told by a reporter.

"What happened was very sad," he said. "It was most likely an indirect link to the Olympic team ... [The attack] must have been an isolated incident."

Mark Metts of Houston and his two daughters were strolling the Olympic Green in the morning. One of his daughters was wearing a Team USA shirt.

"The Chinese people have been great," he said. "I believe that we've felt very safe and haven't felt threatened at all."

He said that his family might "reconsider going to the Drum Tower," but they weren't going to change their plans based on Saturday's attack.

John Creedon of Worcester, Mass., who was reached on his cell phone, had just watched Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh win their first match in beach volleyball. He and his group of friends — they had visited the Drum Tower on Friday — had bought American flags that morning. No one felt uneasy about walking around the city waving the red, white and blue.

"Honestly, we haven't felt any anti-American sentiment," he said. "The Chinese have been awesome. Every one is wrapped up in the Olympic spirit."

His group was heading to Tianjin, an hour south of Beijing, to watch the U.S. soccer team play the Netherlands.

"We'll be a little more vigilant," Creedon said. "But we won't be hunkering down in our hotel room."

And life seemed to be running normally around the hutong neighborhoods around the Drum Tower. The subway exit to the Drum Tower was humming along, with no extra security. Nanluogu Xiang, a fashionable alleyway near the two towers, was business as usual. Locals were lined up at the popular yogurt shop and tourists were shopping for unique, trendy souvenirs.

Back at the Drum Tower, a family from Denmark was taking a break from the humidity, drinking soft drinks from the hole-in-the-wall snack shop. The father was drinking a beer. They knew about Saturday's assault. But they had scheduled the Drum Tower days before and they were sticking to their schedule.

The mother, Mette Madsen, looked up to the centuries-old Drum Tower when asked about her feelings of Saturday's tragedy.

"It happens. It's life, bad things happen," she said. "The world is so cruel."

Sunny Wu will be writing for throughout the Beijing Olympics. He can be reached at You can follow more of his exploits at

Video: One American dead after Beijing stabbing


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