Thursday, March 10, 2011

Getting Through to the Other Side

We had a moment or two.

The sun was shining and Burger King makes a great Whopper and there was no traffic on I-10.  We found the open air lot and G'ma's handicapped parking placard came in handily as we slipped right into the closest parking space available.  There's a beautiful courtyard behind the Federal Courthouse and TBG took his time pushing me past the fountain, stopping to let me fondle the newly-cut grassy lawn.  In Tucson, well tended grass is a rarity and worthy of proper consideration.  Homage was paid and we moved on.

There is a well-signed but very long pathway to the accessible entrance to the building.  Rather than entering covertly through the rear, he had to push me around to the front of the building where, not surprisingly, the gaggle of reporters and cameramen were gathered in the shade.  That's when it started for me.

We've been receptive to repeated requests for comments.  We've limited the scope of the inquiries to what we feel and what happened and how I am progressing.  The larger issues, the societal issues, the legal and moral issues - those we've avoided discussing on film.  But yesterday was different; there were only those meta-issues to be discussed.  My feelings were specific and overwhelming and, in some ways, unclear.  They were certainly not to be shared.  We said "No Comment, please" and moved on.  We couldn't stop them from taking pictures, though.

TBG pushed faster as the doorway was opened by one of the many many Victims Assistance staff members.  It must be nice to have a job where your back up consists of US Marshals - ones with badges and don't-mess-with-me faces.  Those faces reflected nothing but concern for my well-being as their hands searched every bit of my wheelchair .  Did they "wand" me?  I'm not sure.  I was having a moment.

Without warning, I was scared.  Terrified.  Vulnerable.  The last time I'd participated in a civic event there were bullets involved.  That memory came back fiercely, and the tears flowed.  I was shaking and TBG was hugging and the Marshals had furrowed brows.  Tissues were produced (these Victims Assistance people think of everything) and I took a deep breath and the moment passed.  

I hate being surprised by fear.  It's not the way I define myself.  But it was there and it was real and I had to embrace it.  The time for denial was long gone.  We were in the Federal Courthouse and the process was underway.  There was real danger, of course, but there were also all those US Marshals.

I was glad that TBG had encouraged me to use the wheelchair in lieu of my walker; the distances we traveled were long and slippery.  I'd still be hopping today.  Instead, we glided swiftly down corridors and through locked doorways with alarms which sounded after 15 seconds - no one was sneaking in behind us.  Up the elevator and down another hallway and into an anteroom which was as sterile as they come.  This was not a place for random visiting.

I met the other survivors - Mavy held my hand and told me I could be strong as the tears flowed down my cheeks and my heart was pounding in my chest.  More tissues, more hugs and lots and lots of sympathy.  The others were made of sterner stuff, it seems.  I was a puddle.  The representative from Homicide Survivors, Inc. put her face in front of mine and reminded me to breathe.  She was sympathetic and strong - exactly the combination I needed at the moment.

I began to relax.  Clearly, we were surrounded by experts.

One of the prosecutors briefed us on what was to follow - where we would go, how we would get there, where we would sit (a cut out was provided for my wheelchair) and how we would be protected.  And protected we were.  The courtroom was filled with US Marshals; they surrounded the room like wallpaper.  Big, slight, brown, white, black, male, female they all shared one common trait - their eyes were trained like lasers on the room.  I've never seen so many people focused on one space.  There was no yawning, no shuffling of feet, no wandering gazes.  They were on the job and doing it well.

Since their job was to protect me, I was glad to see it.

The gallery space was 3 or 4 rows of pews with padded cushions; the doors opened and in poured the media.  Some we recognized and some were strangers but they were all looking at us and typing away on their devices.  I focused on TBG and the Marshals.  The Victims Assistance staff were seated all around us, forming a human barrier.  Their attention was focused on us; it helped to know that we were not alone, that they had our backs, that every few minutes one of them would walk over and explain something about the room or the people or, most important, would offer reassurance that we were safe and secure.

There was only a small wooden barrier between my self and the defendant's chair.  It didn't look like much of a deterrent.  TBG reassured me -"Just let him try to come at you. Just let him try."   It's nice to have a protector by your side. 

Mavy prayed and I shook as the side door opened and in he came.  Shackled.  Chained.  Locked.  Smirking.

He's a puny little person, with extra long sideburns and (as the Arizona Star so eloquently put it this morning) fuzz on his chin.  That ubiquitous mug shot makes him seem larger and fleshier and scarier than he is in person.  He's a wimpy, shrimpy punk.

That's my opinion, anyway.

His affect was weird enough to encourage Judge Burns to order a competency hearing.  No sense in getting started if he's unable to assist in his defense or to understand the nature of the proceedings against him.  The defense wanted to put the hearing off so that she could bond with her client; that went no where fast.

Judge Burns owns his courtroom.  TBG, a recovering lawyer, said "In this room he is God."  He's a fairly benevolent deity as far as I could tell.  He listened respectfully, he was totally prepared,  he was well-spoken and thoughtful and he embodied impartiality.

I'm not a big fan of impartiality right now, I must admit.  I have a certain bias in this case.  Sitting in the gallery, feeling quite insignificant, I realized that I am involved in the ultimate game with an ultimate arbiter and the ultimate penalty.  I want everything to go my way, I want all the decisions to be in my favor, I am anxious with each and every motion presented, and I really really care about the outcome.

But the outcome doesn't define the situation.  Christina-Taylor and Judge Roll and Mavy's husband are still gone.  Nothing can alter that fact, and that's the fact that lives in the corner of my soul every day.  I laugh, I listen to music, I gossip with friends and I feel just a little bit sad. 

I'm telling you - there is a big cry coming.

For now, I'd like to thank the people of the United States for prosecuting the person we believe perpetrated this evil.  Innocent until proven guilty..... I've never had such a big stake in such a profoundly personal and disturbingly inexplicably intensely public issue.  I'm wounded in my soul and there are only temporal remedies available to me.  

I am so glad that I was there.  The pipsqueak is demystified, reduced to an insignificant speck in my space.  I watched the process and felt safe.  Everyone was doing an important job and no one was grandstanding or being obtuse.  The citizenry's business was being conducted with honor and grace.  I was proud to be there.

And this morning I woke up and the sun was shining and I, the Official Grandmother of Prince Elementary School, who was announced as such this morning before the Mob Dance at Field Day

I was in the presence of such joy

such hope

such promise

 that the world seemed as if it were once again righting itself on its axis.

I want to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it.  I want America to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.  

~ President Barack Obama, Wednesday, January 12, 2011 ~


  1. Oh, I thought about you yesterday, as well as the others. I am glad that you felt it strengthened you.

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  3. Glad it's over, and glad you could see him as a pipsqueak. :)
    We will be close by tonight, even if I can't get to your side.

  4. I just took a deep breath for you, and exhaled a big sigh of relief. I'm glad you felt *SO* much bigger and stronger than the shrimpy one.

  5. (deleted my previous post 'cause I spelled something wrong and it annoys me)

    AB, I'm glad you felt safe and although I was concerned about you going, you most likely needed to do it to relegate HWSBS to the depths of obscurity in your mind. Being able to do that, will help you out a lot.

    I loved the pixs of the kids at the field day. So beautiful. And of course. the President's quote at the bottom of your post today.

    I was granted permission to post this on my blog by J.D. Crowe.

    It's a lovely image.

    Enjoy the concert this evening.

    Megan xxx

  6. You were in my thoughts all day yesterday. I had every confidence you had the stamina and courage to be there, but I also knew it was going to be hard. No doubt you are stronger for attending, and will be stronger for the next day in court, and there will be many.

    I did see your picture entering the courthouse.

  7. I thought of you yesterday and hoped it would go well for you. Glad to see you reduced him to a punky pipsqueak....debbie

  8. Right now, I'm trying to remember to breathe, too. I'm holding it with you.

    "I'm telling you - there is a big cry coming."

    Yes. As it should be. When it's time. And, yes, he's small...a gollum, only.

  9. As a professional writer, I get paid to put thoughts down on paper. However, I’ve literally sat here in front of my laptop with a blank screen unable to put into words what I am thinking right now.
    I have wondered for a while how to get in touch with you. I know that sounds a little bit awkward, but I guess I need to share an anecdote in order to explain this a bit further. I am a Tucson, AZ native… furthermore, a NW TUCSON NATIVE… now living in Charleston, SC with my USMC husband and two sons, both under the age of two. Like everyone else, I was glued to my television when word of the events that took place made their way via friends and family to me, all the way out here on the East coast.
    The first interview I saw of you was one of the many occasions where I was crying during the days after. My eighteen month old son, Aiden, ran over to me and gave me a big hug – in only the way a toddler can when his mama is upset – and then pointed at your face on the television screen. He instantly lit up when the camera panned in on you, shouted “HI!” and blew your image a kiss on the screen. I’ve NEVER seen him react that way to anything on television before, sans the occasional adoration for Elmo or Lightening McQueen. It was in that moment that I realized just how incredible of a woman and how brave you are… enough so that a child thousands of miles away recognized it simply by watching you on television.
    Now that I have backwardly found this blog and have read your wise, eloquent words, I know exactly what my young son immediately recognized in you. You are beautiful, girlfriend! And I wish you so much happiness and healing during this time and in the future.

  10. As I knew he was having an appearance, I held you in my thoughts all day yesterday. There are a lot of us out there doing that.

    I've seen quite a few criminal proceedings -- in most of them I've had that sense of the judge acting the judge role so that "citizenry's business was being conducted with honor and grace." It is reassuring in many ways.

    Be well.

  11. BEAUTIFUL THURSDAY! I think we, as experienced adults, lead our young people into adulthood by example, but I think our young people are the wise ones when it comes to showing us, as adults, how to HEAL..........Carol

  12. Well done, AB. Well written, too.

  13. An outstanding post, and I am SO GLAD that you went and saw him for the pipsqueak that he is.

  14. I am glad you were reassured by the presence of the US Marshal Corps around you during He Who Should Be Slapped's preliminary hearing yesterday. My former brother in law works as a US Marshall here in the State of Oregon. He definitely fits your description of the US Marshals who surrounded you, the court room, and when he is doing his job he makes his presence known to the defendants in court cases. He is the type of person you do not want to get mad at you. Before working for the U.S. Marshals Service he was a county jailer here in Portland. I was thinking of you yesterday during the hearing and see that HWSBS defense attorney Ms. Clark is using every tool in her arsenal to help him from getting the death penalty in this case.
    I loved the fact you were the Official Grandmother of Prince Elementary School during their field day. Thank you for the great photographs of the students participating in their field day especially the first photo of the students raising their hands with the little girl wearing a prosthetic leg. 10 years ago I would never have noticed that in a group of children playing but when you have a heart transplant in the last five and half years your entire perspective on life changes for the better.
    Finally, great quote from President Obama about our great Democracy and making sure everyone in America upholds Christina Taylor Green's and every child's vision of what it takes to be an American.

  15. Your courage makes me cry, as does the story of the support you have from your family and your community, which now includes the entire nation.

  16. Thank you so much for having the courage to post this piece. It must have been excruciating to go through it and then to write about it. I am glad you did, as it gives the rest of us a different perspective to this event. Thank you, bless you, and may you continue to heal and prosper.

  17. My arms were virtually stretched across the pond all day long yesterday in a supporting hug. You did well Girl! Christina would be very proud of you!

  18. So what do I think? I am in awe of you!

  19. BRAVO!
    oxo's, Artess


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