Doubtless for those who knew her, but also for an entire city and country shocked and grieving, the murder of Lily Burk, a 17-year-old incoming high school senior from Los Feliz, feels like a nightmare of the deepest flop-sweat, an unreality from which we can only hope to awake and discard as a thousand impossible terrors all made manifest with sickening force.

Charlie Samuel, the 50-year-old parolee accused of killing Burk, previously spent time in state prison for robbery and burglary and had entered a drug treatment facility on Menlo Avenue as a condition of his release. His murder charge has been augmented with special circumstance considerations that would make him eligible for the death penalty.

According to police, Burk was abducted at about 3 p.m. on July 24 near Southwestern University School of Law where she was collecting papers for her mother, an adjunct professor at the school. The police timeline suggests that over the next hour, Burk called her parents asking how to withdraw money from an ATM using her credit card.

After her parents told her she couldn’t withdraw with her card, she then said she would be coming home to collect some money but never arrived. Several security cameras reportedly captured Samuel and Burk together, both in her car and approaching ATMs.

Two hours after the abduction, Samuel left Burk’s black Volvo in a downtown parking lot with her body in the passenger seat, a police spokesman said. Thirty minutes later, Samuel was arrested by police for drinking in public. During the arrest, police reportedly found narcotics paraphernalia, and, according to L.A. Times law enforcement sources, a cell phone and a Volvo key. Burk’s body was found early the next morning, and three days later Samuel was publicly charged in her death.

Burk’s murder is a tragedy that strikes deep at the essential core of our collective humanity. It tarnishes the singular promise we hold dear, for our children and everyone’s children, that the next generation will have its moment to inherit a flawed but ever-evolving world. Any death, but particularly one so senseless, uncovers the underlying unfairness that, try as we might to resolve to marginalize it, cruelly reminds us not everything ends up the way we trust it should.

But violence of unspeakable and seemingly random occurrence must be taken for what it is: unspeakable and random. Let us not live paralyzed by fear of such things, but let us also be unafraid to embrace the delicacy of life, so identified by Burk’s parents: “If there is anything that people can take away from this horrible tragedy, it’s that life is fragile and that they should live every minute of it fully.”

While dinner table, water cooler and broadcast conversations dwell ceaselessly on the violence and “meaning” of a crime, we as a society do very little to discuss, frankly and unapologetically, life as both beautiful and frail; the frailty underscores the beauty. What’s more, though it is far too easy to think we know “who” Samuel is through the damning lens of the allegations against him, we may certainly decry the continuing destitution and hopelessness that plagues the have-nots in our country.

The stories – bordered but never bound by Skid Row – of our forgotten should not only warrant the front page of the paper and the forefront of our thoughts in times of calamity and accusation. And while Samuel’s apparently troubled past does not remotely explain or excuse his present, it should offer some tragic insight into circumstances many of us do not – and never would care to – understand.

But Lily Burk, it seems, was not one of the many. She was a victim, yes, but she did not live as a victim, and any honor paid in her memory must remember that.

Her death is not an open door through which all kinds of fears may pass freely and recklessly, but rather as a window, a glimpse, a reminder. It may seem a semantic difference, but it’s the difference between the statement given by LAPD First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, “This could have been you, it could have been your daughter, and that is what drives it home,” one full of fear and foreboding, a lock-your-doors emotional and intellectual barricade, and the life that Burk herself lived: the Times reported that last summer she volunteered at Homeless Health Care Los Angeles downtown as part of their drug outreach and needle exchange program. She was a victim, yes, but she did not live as a victim, and she did not live in fear.

On another day, on maybe every other day, Lily Burk walks back to her car on a warm summer afternoon and meets a man who recognizes her from the needle exchange, thanks her for her help and keeps walking.