You didn’t know me, and I never met you. Still, you act like I need to apologize to you because I died.
I don’t think you understand, but I wasn’t ready to die.
I experienced what I once read, seemingly a long time ago, maybe yesterday, perhaps this morning, from a Dear Abby column that Mom or possibly Dad put on the door of the refrigerator. YOU DID NOT!
I think it was like this, but I don’t know for sure. You’re yelling for all to hear, but I can’t hear you. I’M THE ONE WHO GOT MURDERED!
A portion of that column on the refrigerator door:
“It doesn`t matter how the accident happened. I was goofing off–going too fast. Taking crazy chances. But I was enjoying my freedom and having fun. The last thing I remember was passing an old lady who seemed to be going awfully slow. I heard a deafening crash and I felt a terrible jolt. Glass and steel flew everywhere. My whole body seemed to be turning inside out. I heard myself scream.
Suddenly I awakened; it was very quiet. A police officer was standing over me. Then I saw a doctor. My body was mangled. I was saturated with blood. Pieces of jagged glass were sticking out all over. Strange that I couldn`t feel anything.
Hey, don`t pull that sheet over my head! I can`t be dead. I`m only 17. I`ve got a date tonight. I`m supposed to grow up and have a wonderful life. I haven`t lived yet. I can`t be dead.
Later I was placed in a drawer. My folks had to identify me. Why did they have to see me like this? Why did I have to look at Mom`s eyes when she faced the most terrible ordeal of her life? Dad suddenly looked like an old man. He told the man in charge, “Yes, he is my son.“
The funeral was a weird experience. I saw all my relatives and friends walk toward the casket. They passed by, one by one, and looked at me with the saddest eyes I`ve ever seen. Some of my buddies were crying. A few of the girls touched my hand and sobbed as they walked away.
Please–somebody–wake me up! Get me out of here! I can`t bear to see my mom and dad so broken up. My grandparents are so racked with grief they can hardly walk. My brother and sisters are like zombies. They move like robots. In a daze, everybody! No one can believe this. And I can`t believe it, either. Please don`t bury me! I`m not dead! I have a lot of living to do! I want to laugh and run again. I want to sing and dance. Please don`t put me in the ground. I promise if you give me just one more chance, God, I`ll be the most careful driver in the whole world. All I want is one more chance.
Please, God, I`m only 17!”
I wasn’t in a car, on the road. I did not see or feel glass and steel everywhere. I wasn’t goofing off or taking crazy chances. I was sitting in my desk in English class. I was listening to Coach Arnold recite a poem by Emily Dickinson.
“ I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –
The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –
I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portions of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –
With Blue – uncertain stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –
I never had the opportunity. Well maybe I did, but I never thought about willing my keepsakes away.
I did not see a fly or hear it buzz.
I HEARD SCREAMS. I HEARD GUNSHOTS COMING FASTER THAN I COULD COUNT.
The only other thing I recall is Please God, I’m only 16. I won’t be 17 until the summer.
MY MURDER HAS INCONVENIENCED YOUR LIFE AND YOU TALK ABOUT WHY:
Look, I’m sorry that more people die in car accidents. I lost a close friend because something ran into the road, and he swerved. He would have been OK if it had happened at any other place on that road, but it happened where they were working on the highway. Instead of just being stuck in the ditch, his car hit that big machine and it fell, crushing my friend’s car.
A gun is something that can kill. That’s the purpose of the tool, just like a garden hose is manufactured to transport water some distance away from the spigot. Practically anything can kill. Some can kill more animals or people faster; some requires skill and training to use to kill one or many; some only require a finger, a toe, or anything to pull a trigger.
I admit that I don’t know much about guns. Dad owns several that he keeps locked in his gun safe. He can break each down and put it back together blindfolded, but I can’t.
Last winter, he took me hunting and I shot and killed a deer. He said it was a spike. I only know that it had antlers, and we ate the venison. I’ve shot all of his guns at one time or another. He always supervised and was strict that I do exactly as he told me whenever I handled a gun. No, he wasn’t mean. He spoke with me the same way when he showed me how to use any of his tools. Mom did the same helping me learn how to drive the car. I don’t love guns, but I don’t hate them either. I’d just rather ski in the winter or do anything where I’m running or jumping than just sitting and waiting for some deer to walk by.
People talk about guns for self-defense, but I’ve never carried a gun for that purpose. I have studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for four years now. We focus about how to avoid an attack. If an attack cannot be avoided, we learn how to escape. If we cannot escape, we learn how to control the attacker. Mom has been studying for the last two years with me. She even used what she learned when a thug tried mugging her. Even Dad, who was a Marine for 20 years has started training.
Is it foolproof? I don’t think so, but what is? If I gun was then why do police officers get killed? If it’s gun free zones, why did all those officers and others get murdered in Texas? Whether it’s one person or 1000 people, murder is still murder.
WOULD CARRYING A GUN PROTECT ME? I DON’T KNOW. I DIDN’T EVEN SEE THE PERSON WHO MURDERED ME SO IT PROBABLY WOULDN’T HAVE MATTERED.
I know that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires muscle memory. So does skiing. So does soccer. Your skills fade without practice. Handling a gun can’t be any different.
Dad doesn’t have the same muscle memory or efficiency with a weapon like he had while serving in the military. He doesn’t have the same level of awareness that he had out on the battlefield. My Uncle who is a police officer is required to do a lot of training each year. Maybe you could get lucky with your handgun and avoid 30 rounds while landing one to stop a killer. If my Uncle can’t do it all the time during his training simulations when he knows that he will have to shoot. If Dad could not do it on the battlefield when he knew the enemy was likely in the next building. Don’t claim that I could. If you can, prove it to our military and law enforcement and get a job helping them if you are that good.
I don’t see the relevancy that you do but for your information, I can’t tell anyone anything about Planned Parenthood or the NRA. I can, however, name every member of my state’s congressional delegation thanks to Mrs. Rhodes and Civics class. I made and A in my history class. I can talk about the Constitution because I compete in the oratory contest that the American Legion holds. This year I came close to going to nationals in Indianapolis. I finished second in the entire state. I wasn’t disappointed because this was only my second year to compete in the contest. Thanks Mrs. Rhodes, Coach Arnold for the public speaking help, and of course Mr. Perkins for teaching history and helping me find primary sources for my speeches. Maybe next year…
Wait, there isn’t a next year. Someone walked into my classroom and murdered me.
I appreciate the thoughts and prayers. Really I do.
I just want to know why you seem so put off, so vocal, so demanding that my death somehow hurts your rights?
Why does my death mean less than all these statistics you cite about how other people died?
Why are my friends and classmates being vilified for asking questions and wanting to prevent others and even themselves from being murdered like me?
They don’t have a magical solution that’s 100 percent effective.
You don’t either.
They’re concerned because they experienced this terror.
You’re concerned why? It’s not because you think you’ll be next. It’s because my being murdered is a threat to your way of life.
I’M SORRY THAT OTHER PEOPLE DIED BEFORE ME. I’M MEETING SOME OF THOSE PEOPLE WHERE I’M AT RIGHT NOW. SOME WERE MURDERED JUST LIKE ME. WHO DID AND IT AND HOW THEY DID IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER TO US RIGHT NOW. WE’RE ALL DEAD, AND I KNOW THAT I WASN’T READY TO DIE JUST YET.
IF I MEET SOMEONE MURDERED WHO WAS READY TO BE MURDERED, I’LL TRY TO LET YOU KNOW.
For now, I’ll just say that I’m sorry that my being murdered makes you feel like someone will make your life inconvenient. No offense, but I feel more sorry for my family and friends who knew me. I just want to limit the chances of someone else getting murdered. My friends feel the same way. That’s why we’re trying to be heard.
I’M SORRY MY BEING MURDERED INCONVENIENCES YOU!!!!
PLEASE GOD, PLEASE EVERYONE, I WAS ONLY 16.