The Parkland Shooting – More than a Hashtag

PkPhoto credit: http://www.waaytv.com

The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland brought tears to my eyes – thinking about all these innocent persons who were just going about their day, and all the families who are now mourning the cruel and sudden loss of their loved ones. Imagine parents standing outside the school, frantic and distraught, waiting to hear if their children are okay.  Imagine the ones who received tragic news. Valentine’s Day will never be the same for them.  We celebrate love on this day, but for these families it will now be a reminder of sadness and pain.  It was particularly sad as I was in Miami at the time so it felt extra ‘close to home’.  Every television channel and radio station was broadcasting updates on the horrific tragedy.

The shooter, nineteen year old Nikolas Cruz had a twisted fascination with guns, even posing with them on social media.  Records show that the police had been called to his home thirty-nine times over a seven year period.  Thirty-nine times!  He had also been expelled from school last year for disciplinary reasons. He clearly displayed signs of being troubled.  Neighbours and peers echo this sentiment.  It begs the questions – Were warning signs overlooked? Could more have been done? Could seventeen lives have been spared?

According to reports, the FBI received a tip from a source close to Nikolas. As per www.time.com, ‘In a statement, the FBI said that a person close to Cruz, who has allegedly confessed to killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., called the FBI tip line with concerns on Jan. 5. The caller gave the FBI information on Cruz’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” That information should have been forwarded to the FBI’s Miami field office for agents to investigate, but it was not.  “We have determined that these protocols were not followed,” a statement from the FBI read.

How do you drop the ball on a tip as serious as that?  That boggles my mind. The FBI has of course issued an apology to the families, but that is absolutely no comfort in a situation like this.

Sadly, mass shootings have become an all too real reality in the United States – Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, the Orlando night club shooting and the Las Vegas shooting come to mind immediately.  While typing this it occurred to me how difficult it must be for the families who lost persons in these shootings. Each time a mass shooting occurs it must feel like they are reliving their loss again and again.

I’m wondering how the survivors of the Parkland shooting will return to school, even if it is that they transfer elsewhere. With all that has been happening, if I was a parent living in the United States I honestly think I would be so paranoid that I would homeschool my child/children. Not to say that would totally eliminate the possibility of harm, but I would feel better having them home.

What I am anxious to know now is what measures will be put in place. For one, I think gun control legislation needs to be re-examined.  More restrictions need to be put in place as it relates to gun ownership. For example, there are currently only five states (California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, Washington) with legislation that permits relatives, guardians or law enforcement officials to request that judges temporarily strip gun rights from individuals who are deemed a threat.  According to www.chicagotribune.com, ‘Florida, where Cruz is accused of using an AR-15 rifle to kill 17 people at his former high school, does not have such a law. He was able to legally own the semi-automatic rifle even though his mother, classmates and teachers had at times described him as dangerous and threatening.’

I truly hope that the Parkland shooting won’t become just another incident where all that happens is that we throw some hashtags out and change our profile pictures to stand in solidarity. More needs to be done. We can’t have this happen again.

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Two Simple Words – My Daddy

daddy-pic

I started this on Father’s Day but I decided not to publish it, mostly because I didn’t want to make anyone sad, particularly those who are close to me and can relate to this specific situation or those who have lost someone close to them.  Today I’m in a funk for all sorts of reasons and I’ve been blank for a while now, not finding the spark to write anything (or to even really do anything for that matter).  If you’re friends with me on Facebook that’s a shocker to hear, right? I always have so much to say and apparently people like it.  It’s the reason I started a blog in the first place; the push of my Facebook friends.  It surprised me to see comments from persons saying that they check my page just to see what I said that day, that I should write a book, make videos, blog…you name it.  I’m glad I took the advice and started the blog because it’s been yet another channel for expression.

Well, here goes…

I’m sensing this is going to turn into an epistle and that I’m going to share even more than I usually would. Why? I don’t know. Why on social media? I don’t know that either. It’s Father’s Day but I can only celebrate the memory of mine, but it’s a great memory because he was a great Daddy. I lost my Daddy when I was 15 (almost 16) and I was as much a Daddy’s girl as I am a Mommy’s girl. Even though we know death awaits us all, we still never expect it, and I certainly didn’t expect it when he passed. Not then and not that way. We were talking and laughing…I think we were watching ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ and at the same time I was on my laptop. In the midst of our talking and laughing, he gasped and his head fell back. I screamed for my sister because I didn’t want to scare Mommy but of course my scream woke her and they both came running. He was unresponsive. We tried getting him to the car but he felt like lead, and we couldn’t move him. All that time I was trying to give him mouth to mouth resuscitation. I didn’t know how to so I really didn’t know what I was doing but I did it anyway, thinking I could help.  Knowing now what I did not know then, if he was still alive at the time, I may have made matters worse being that I didn’t know the correct technique. During all this my sister ran outside into the street and screamed for help. My neighbours came running and assisted us to put Daddy into another neighbour’s vehicle (since it was bigger I guess. I don’t quite know).

We rushed him to the hospital and the whole time I continued ‘CPR.’ I expected a movie type ending where the doctors would rush out and use the paddles to shock and revive him. That’s really and truly what I expected. That’s not what happened though. A doctor did rush out, but she said, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing we can do.” She didn’t get the right script. That’s not how it was supposed to go. Everyone went into the hospital but I stayed in the van. I remember rocking back and forth like a crazy person, talking to God, saying the same thing over and over. “How could you take my Daddy? How could you take my Daddy?” I’m not sure how long I was in there but my neighbour’s daughter remembered me and came and sat with me. What she said to me was very simple but I think it’s because of those simple words that I was able to handle it. She told me that my mother and sister need me and that I have to be strong for them. Jody Barnett, thank you. You couldn’t have been more right, and your words have stayed with me. She took me inside and I remember I sat by myself. I was already seeing what she meant. My sister was rolling on the carpet, the dirty hospital carpet, bawling. My mother was a mess too. I couldn’t bring myself to comfort them though. I was in a zone and wanted to just sit alone. At one point they sat on the chairs hugging each other and still I sat alone until I was called over. Truth is, I didn’t want to go. I needed space, to sit and process, but how could I say that I wanted to be alone?  That would have been selfish, right?  I went over and we all sat there hugging each other. Family members started coming and the police came too (to do a report). The doctor spoke with us.  I guess it was procedure.  I don’t remember much of that though. I do remember her giving my mother sedatives so that she would be able to sleep at nights. I don’t remember the ride home at all; not one bit.  When I got home I called my friend Robyn and left a message on her cell (she was at her high school ball). I calmly told her that my Daddy had died but that I was okay. I then proceeded to clean the house. I mean really clean. Cleaned the bathrooms, changed sheets, all sorts of things. I don’t know if it was denial or just how I decided to handle it. Over the next few days my friends would come by (well Robyn moved in) and they would sit there crying for Uncle Calvin. He was very involved and had been our ‘chauffeur’ between home and school and dance class. While they cried I would get them tissue and console them. “Wait, what’s wrong with this picture?” they would ask. It’s like we reversed roles. I don’t remember a lot about his funeral because as terrible as this sounds, I was half asleep. Mommy had thought it would be a good idea to give me half a sedative to keep me calm during the funeral. So as emotional as the ordeal of the funeral was, I was fighting sleep at times.  It’s bad enough that people saw that I barely cried in the days leading up to it and now there I was probably bucking.  People must have wondered what kind of daughter I was.  I definitely remember my performing arts group Little People and Teen Players Club. One of the songs they sang was “Three Little Birds” and To-Isis sang “So Hard to Say Goodbye.”  They delivered these songs beautifully.  I remember seeing little Asha crying her eyes out as she walked off the stage, and I forgot my own grief.  I just wanted to hug her and tell her that it’s okay.  Kareen, you gave me goosebumps when you came to the house the night before the funeral and gave us a taste of the song you would be singing solo on; “Nobody Told Me,” and best believe you gave me goosebumps all over again at the church.  At the graveside you would not have known that I was the daughter of the person being buried because I was way off with my cousin and her mommy. I was pretty far away from it but Ms. Levy (head of my performing arts group) came and got me and led me right over and put me at the front. I guess she knew I needed to face it.

Perhaps my experience with losing my Daddy has made me process the things the way I do now. I don’t know. I seem to have said I don’t know quite a bit throughout writing this. I forgot to say that our family doctor said he probably died instantly. As awful as any kind of death is, that’s a comfort to know, and at least I don’t beat myself up thinking that my shoddy mouth to mouth resuscitation made things worse.  By the way, all of this happened when I was preparing for CXC so it is by the grace of God that I did as well as I did – four 1’s and four 2’s.  The biggest thing for me is that I passed Math lol. How I ended up with a 2 is a miracle in itself. I can’t begin to tell you how terrible I am at Math.  I don’t even think my mother thought I would ever be able to tell time dwl. The only time I like numbers is when I’m counting money – from a child until now lol.

Jody, thank you again for something you don’t even know you did.  Robyn, thank you…you already know.  Anabela and Paloma, you may not have been in Jamaica at the time but your love and support traveled oceans.  Kathy, yours did too.  I remember your message letting me know that you were praying for us.  Ramesh, I can’t remember a whole lot from the service but I do remember seeing you standing there with so much concern on your face, watching me as I left the church. Matthew, I can remember you playing ‘big cousin’ as you always do even though I’m the older one and holding me as I walked out. Candace, forever my partner in everything, it was you who I was with when I was off at a distance from the graveside.  She too has had traumatic losses, one of which I was present for as she experienced it, and I replay that in my head at times, wishing that she never had to go through what she has, but she has been so strong.  Keisha, you took food for us, because Lord knows preparing food was the last thing on our minds.  Up to now, both you and Audrey still go and look for Daddy and wash off his gravestone whenever you visit your loved ones. Robert, there’s a thank you here for you too.  Keisha, Audrey and Robert…all Air Jamaica family. I wasn’t a part of the Air Jamaica family yet. I didn’t join it till years later, but what a beautiful thing it was to see the sea of colours (the uniform) in the pews. All that support.  My high school friends who came out; Chrystal, Shamay, Senna, Alison thank you. Auntie Joy and the rest of the family, thank you for not forgetting Daddy.  Even in the midst of your grieving, you walked over with us to visit his grave (we were there for another funeral).   If I didn’t name someone I should have, I’m sorry.

Out of the turmoil came the meeting of a whole new side of my family that I didn’t even know existed. Well, that’s actually a bit of a crazy story. I had a close friend at the time, Alison, and I used to be at her house all the time sleeping over. Her mother’s best friend lived in New York but would come and visit, and so being at the house as often as I was, I had met her. One day she told Auntie Cecile that she was coming for her cousin’s funeral.  Auntie Cecile told her that she too had a friend’s funeral to attend. Believe it or not, it turned out that the friend and cousin was my Daddy.  I had met this lady all this time before and not even known she was my cousin.  If one good thing happened, it was meeting Debbie and as a result, all these other wonderful relatives.  I am grateful for that, and if you know me well, you know that I love my family.

Even though I’ve experienced loss, I’m not good at finding the words to say to others who are grieving.  If there’s anyone who lost someone and felt I didn’t say as much as you expected, I’m sorry.  I just remember that with my Daddy sometimes my mind may not have been there in my grief right at that particular moment, and then someone would wish me condolences and there I was again, jolted back.  I guess I’m concerned about doing that to people. A big thing too is that I didn’t really know how to respond to people when they wished me condolences. I didn’t ever want to seem sad and make them feel sad or worry. So now I don’t know how to express it because I’m wondering if they’re feeling that way when I’m speaking to them.

I’ve held it together pretty well I think, and the only times I really break are if I hear certain songs, particularly Luther Vandross’ ‘Dance With My Father.’  That song just kills me.  Once I was in the back of my friend’s father’s car and it started playing. I wished and hoped and prayed that he would change the station but he didn’t realize.  My lips just wouldn’t move to ask him to do it so I sat there, sucked it up and silently cried.  I also get teary eyed when I watch fathers walk their daughters down the aisle because I know that I won’t have that moment.

Now we’re moving from funerals and sadness to weddings.  After planning weddings for others, and really enjoying doing so, I can’t tell you what I would want for mine (if that elusive occasion ever comes my way that is). For real…all I can tell you is that I want a nice ring and a nice dress.  The ring doesn’t need to be huge or expensive. I just want to like it. I mean, I’m going to be wearing it every day for the rest of my life. The dress…hmm…I don’t know what floats my boat there either, and this is coming from someone who has watched three million episodes of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ and ‘Four Weddings.’ Once again, I just want it to look nice.  It should be flattering. The one detail that I do have worked out in my head is how I’ll walk down the aisle.  All the men who have been a big part of my life and/or my father’s will walk me down the aisle…each one will walk me a few steps down to the other.  I guess I’m going to need a long aisle, huh 🙂 My godfather, my sister’s godfather Uncle Howie who was also my father’s very close friend, Uncle Wilfred and Uncle Eddie, who along with the rest of their families became family to mine.  There’s also my cousin Matthew who actually wasn’t on my ‘aisle list’ until just now as I typed. I started thinking about how he’s questioned a male who was interested in me.  Actually, interrogated may be the right word. He always needs to know what’s up with his big cousin lol.  Of course there is my Uncle Bunny…Uncle Bunny has the last leg. He and Daddy shared so many conversations about all sorts of things. I can picture them now just chilling and talking. As old as my sister and I are, Uncle Bunny still worries about us driving and warns us about being careful about everything.  He always has words of advice for us too.  Always tells us how proud he is of us and everything we have achieved.

My Daddy is memorable for so many things.  His love of music is one, which he passed on to me. Show me someone else my age who can sing and appreciate songs from the Temptations (love them), Delfonics, Five Heartbeats, Ben E. King, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole and so many more. Daddy would put on LPs and I would stand on his feet and we would dance.  He also had a love for cars, which I definitely did not get :/ I hate having to deal with my car when there are issues.  If I could have someone else do it, I would.

Every night when I was little he would read to me from ‘My Book of Bedtime Bible Stories.’  I still have it by the way.  I loved to read, and to satisfy my appetite for reading, he would take me to Tom Redcam Library on Saturdays so that I could borrow books.  I asked a ton of questions.  Can you say curious?  To help with that, he bought me a book called ‘Tell Me Why’ with answers to all sorts of questions lol. Still have that book too.  He would check my homework every evening when I was in prep school and leave a note with corrections if there were any to be made.  How many fathers are that attentive?  Although shy, when it came to dancing I was a morning star (as we say here in Jamaica). Ask me to do any new dance move and I was up for it.  He loved to see me dance and felt like I had a talent there so at 7 he took me to audition for a performing arts group. Wonder if he ever regretted that (just kidding) because from then and through high school it meant he was taking me to and from dance, voice and acting classes lol. My life became his and he would sit through hours of rehearsals.  If I needed new leotards, ballet shoes, jazz shoes, tap shoes or so forth, if it wasn’t Mommy with me getting them, it was Daddy.  Oh, and I did gymnastics too.  He was already gone when it was time for me to learn how to drive, but I remember when my sister was learning and he would let her practice at every opportunity.  I remember sitting in the car as she would drive to extra lessons and Daddy and I would sit and wait till she was finished.  He was there however to teach me how to ride a bicycle. He and Mommy bought me one which I was only able to part with just a few years ago because a little boy asked for it.  It was hard to give away but he needed it.  I was no longer riding it and it was more so the fact that it was a gift from my parents why I still had it.  The sentimental value was doubled because I spent many an afternoon riding up and down as Daddy watched me.  I went from training wheels to being a pro rider 🙂 but never did he let me go out there unattended.  Daddy was one to reward good work. My sister and I could get basically anything we wanted when we passed exams.   My strong will comes from him.  Well that’s from both my parents.  I guess mine and Daddy’s is unexpected though.  With my Mommy, you definitely see it coming that she is no pushover.  With Daddy and I it is more undercover.  You would think because we seem quiet that you can walk all over us, but no siree.  We are forces to be reckoned with.  I wanted for nothing, and can wholeheartedly say that I was fortunate to have one of the best fathers ever.

For the first time I didn’t re-read my post to check for errors and to ensure that it flowed or so forth so if anything seems out of whack, please bear with me.  I just typed and published.  I promise my next post won’t be this dreary 🙂 I guess this one just needed to be written, and perhaps you now have a little more insight and understand me somewhat better, if that’s even possible.

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