The Morning Time Stood Still

6/17/2010

As I was walking this morning, as I do most mornings, my thoughts began to wander as they so often do. We’ve all had these moments; a time when our brain is searching for something to think about. Before my mind had time to settle on a topic, a police cruiser zoomed by, racing south on the highway; its sirens jolting me back to the here and now, thus causing me to cringe until I remember that my friend is no longer teaching down the bayou. But, for that moment before the present sinks in, the piercing sound almost brings me to my knees as I fight the urge to cower and cover my ears. As they tend to do, the painful memories that have been suppressed come screaming back to the present.  The memories of that day, one year ago this month, never fail to make me catch my breath when I think of how close I came to losing my closest and dearest friend.

I realize these two words are synonymous, but I must use both in describing the special relationship I have with this young woman.  She is my best friend, my confidant, my mentor, my daughter, and without her, the void that would exist in my life and my heart is too vast to put into words.

That fateful morning in late May of 2009, which started off as any other morning, turned into one of the most horrific days of my life, and I know, hers as well. It was the 9/11 day in our lives just as the people in New York that fateful day had their world shattered by terrorists; our world was shattered by a lone gunman.

I woke up, made the bed, fed the dog, and began my walk. Sirens blaring as police cruisers speed up and down the highway are a normal part of the day, and this particular sunny day seemed to hold nothing unusual in its midst. A cruiser went by with lights and siren on; then, a second unit, followed by a third. I only thought that whatever was going on must involve a fellow police officer. I didn’t give it much more thought than that. Only a couple of minutes had passed before more sirens could be heard in the distance, and, as chills ran up my spine, I turned in my tracks to watch as Louisiana State Trooper units went racing by with lights and sirens blaring at speeds I had not witnessed before on our narrow two lane highway. A special force tactical unit soon followed then additional Lafourche Parish Sheriff Police cruisers as well as other unmarked units and ambulances. The air took on the eerie atmosphere of a haunted swamp.

Still, I only thought that whatever was happening surely involved a Lafourche Parish Deputy or a Louisiana State Trooper, more the former than the latter; history just repeating itself.  You see, true excitement rarely happens in our community and they are all known for loving a good chase.  I also remember being grateful that my husband had retired from the state police two years earlier, and just to put my mind at ease I phoned him to make sure he was okay. I also wanted to give him a heads up that something ominous was happening. At this point, neither of us had any inkling how this day would unfold.

As time has passed and as one would expect, some of the details have been forgotten, much like the scrawling in the sand as the water washes up and splashes onto shore to fill the crevices; and I cannot recall exactly how I found out about the shooting at one of the schools down the highway from our house. I remember making phone calls, calling first my brother, who worked with an ambulance service, and then a close friend on the police force. Both began their own inquiries, and eventually I received word that it was the middle school. I then heard from a neighbor that shots had been fired at a teacher but the teacher’s identity was yet unknown. One source reported a gym teacher had been the target, and I remember breathing a sigh of relief because the gym was located at the opposite end of the hall from my friend Jessica’s classroom.

There are events in our lives that we are destined to remember. We are able to recall down to the last detail where we were, what we were doing, how sound around us ceased to exist, how the world stood still. This is one of those times that will be forever ingrained in the recesses of my mind. I remember exactly where I was standing on the driveway when I found out that the classroom the gunman had entered was indeed Jessica’s. Then, the realization penetrated my denial that Jessica had been the gunman’s target.  We have all felt this way at one time or another. Everything around us goes still, our body folding unto itself, blackness surrounding our perimeter vision, things happening in slow motion, the deafening silence. This was one of those moments; the moment that marks someone else’s life, not our own.

Full-blown panic set in. My first thought was to call my husband. I remember thinking that he can fix anything. He can find out about her for me. I thought, “I need to get to school” but because I am not a blood relative, I knew that my chances of getting anywhere near enough to see or speak to Jessica were less than zero, and I was positive there would be utter and complete chaos. All my thoughts were jumbled together. I remember thinking I’ve lost so much in my life; I can’t lose another person so dear to me. I thought that after all Jessica had been through in her short life and survived, that it wasn’t fair for her to be taken from us; not by a gunman, not like this. I thought of her young children. All I could think was no, No, NO! God you can’t take her; she’s too special. No!

As additional information became available, I was able to find out that Jessica was unharmed, at least physically.  It was a relief, but I knew that I would be filled with anxiety until I could look at her and touch her and speak to her.

I had so many things on my to do list that day, but all I accomplished was turning around in circles. My mind could not focus. The minutes turned into hours, going by one by one. I remember thinking I have to go to the market to get bread and cold cuts for my husband’s work crew but I couldn’t concentrate enough to gather my things and go. My thoughts were consumed with Jessica. Was she alright? How was she coping? Did she need me?

During the afternoon I was able to speak with her husband. Only then could I feel my breathing begin to stabilize. Minimal focusing became possible. I made the decision to go to the market so I could focus on something where I felt some semblance of control. I do not remember getting into the car and backing out of the garage, but as I rounded the drive, I saw Jessica’s car coming down her driveway, which runs parallel to mine. I vaguely remember stopping the car and getting out and going through the gate. But I do remember the look she gave me when she exited her car and turned towards me, it was the same look mirrored on my own face. Neither one of us is an outwardly huggy type person other than with our children, but we walked toward each other with our arms outstretched and then just held on to each other as though the other were an anchor keeping us grounded to the earth. I had no words to describe what I was feeling at that moment.

I sometimes think of my own mortality, but before that day, I never thought of Jessica’s. The memories of that day will always be in the back of my mind; and they tend to surface at inopportune times. It was months before I could think of that day without breaking down and crying, and still longer before I could do anything other than listen to Jessica speak about it. I am still overwhelmed with emotion at times. I eventually worked up the courage to ask, but not without fighting my tears and emotions, if my fear about that day was true. And, it may sound strange to some, but before I could put the nightmare to rest, I needed to know the truth.

The statement issued by the sheriff’s office led one to believe that the shot had been fired randomly above Jessica’s head. Having had experience with shooting a gun, I knew that a person, especially a young person, would be caught off guard when the gun was fired and the aim would not be accurate. What I believed to be the truth was the student had intended to kill her but due to his lack of experience with a gun, was unprepared for the kickback that in the end spared her life. This was indeed what happened.

My days are peaceful now, but I still worry about Jessica.  She has her good days and she has her bad days. She is still caught off guard at times and is overwhelmed with memories and the bad dreams still invade her sleep. I am hopeful as new days dawn and her children fill her life with laughter, her good memories will always far outnumber the bad. As for me, I receive such joy from watching the three of them together that sometimes it’s easy to forget that day. And, as Jessica has told me on different occassions, you want to forget but if you do, then chances are, nothing will be learned from this horrible experience.

Donna also blogs at http://mylife-in-stories.blogspot.com

 

A Love Letter to my Husband

Today is Valentine’s Day and of course, my first thought was of my husband (it could be the snoring alerted me to his presence and that is why he was my first thought.) He truly is my Prince Charming. He literally rode in on a white horse fifteen years ago (his police cruiser was white) in the darkest moment of my life and swept me off my feet. He brushed the tears from my cheeks and made me smile.

My husband.

I met this wonderful man six months after I separated from my first husband. I had been devastated by the divorce and by the events that had transpired over the course of six months. I was in a deep dark place and falling rapidly. I was definitely in need of a savior and God sent one. I guess it was not my time, and God had other plans for me.

This wonderful man that I am so very fortunate to call husband, has loved me through some of my worst times; and I hope he would tell you, some of my best times. He is the light of my life and I often tease him that God gave him just enough faults to prevent my worshiping the ground he walks on.

He has been there to hold me as I have sobbed my heart out. He has been there late in the night when I have gotten the giggles in bed. We have even made the dog howl (Sentry slept under the house) when the laughter got uncontrollable. My husband puts up with my incessant talking and rapidly changing topics, and my extreme quietness. He rarely complains. That may be because I have loved him unconditionally and have spoiled him rotten in return.

It is a blessing for me to have this wonderful man in my life and I love him with all my heart. This is my love letter to him on Valentine’s Day, a day of love, and a day of reflection. Happy Valentine’s Day to my husband, Jeffery.

Life After Divorce – The Bar Scene – Take 1

I have a friend who is going through a divorce, and she was thinking about going out to a bar with her cousin. She was quite young when she married and expressed curiosity about the whole “going out” bar scene.

Just talking to her brought back some funny memories of when I went through my own divorce. I was not interested in the bar scene (was not interested in the man scene), but my sister managed to convince me I needed to quit moping around and go out with her. She had a friend who was going through a rough time and needed company. So, after much cajoling, I gave in (against my better judgment but sitting around crying every day wasn’t good either.)

I remember meeting her and her friend at a bar. When I walked in, they were horrified to see my attire (NOT what you are thinking), I had on my work clothes; navy plaid shorts (long) paired with navy stockings, navy loafers, and a yellow turtleneck (if I was going to be uncomfortable and out of my element, then I was at least going to wear my favorite outfit.) And, if they did not already think that was bad enough, they nearly broke a blood vessel laughing at the little angel pinned to my turtleneck. I definitely was not giving off the vibe of “trolling.” Not only was I sorely out of place at their table, according to the two of them, I looked like a nun in the middle of a bar.

They ordered drinks; so did I. Once again, their mortification was complete when I ordered water with lemon. I do not know what they expected; they knew I did not drink, and I thought a glass of water (on the rocks) with a slice of lemon at least looked like a drink. According to the “trolling bible,” I wasn’t fooling anyone but myself.

As time went on and I grew increasingly uncomfortable, I dared not even people watch. The music started and they were excited when a good-looking guy came over to the table. I was sitting there trying to guess which one of them he would choose to ask to dance. After all, that is what her friend was there for, not me, not my sister. Have you guessed where this story is going yet? Imagine their gaping mosquito traps when the guy asked me to dance. Then, imagine me trying to foist him off on them because I had no desire to dance with anyone, much less a stranger. Remember, I was there under duress. Men need to learn that no really means NO.

I at least provided entertainment for the two of them that night (and that was the point of this excursion.) Neither of them could get over the fact that anyone approached me, especially the way I was dressed. Apparently, some men like the harlot nun look. I remembered something else as well; they keep the lights turned down for a reason. People are much better looking in the dark.

My sister had an interesting encounter of the family kind. She accompanied her friend to a bar another evening and struck up a conversation with a good-looking guy while waiting for her drink. They started talking, and one question led to another; he was from out of state and in town calling on clients, etc. Then, things got crazy. It turned out this guy, whom my sister’s friend was salivating over, was a cousin of ours that we had never met. Bar life can be quite interesting sometimes.

Thank goodness, I did not have to endure too many episodes of bar life; I only had so many turtlenecks and angel pins (and my sister was on the brink of hysteria). I was definitely not going to be responsible for sending my sister to the loony bin!

The New Additions to our Family

We have two new additions to our family; Ryka and Calypso. Ryka is three years old and Calypso is six weeks old. You’ll be seeing a lot more of them as time goes on. They are already providing material for stories. There are additional pictures on my picture page.



Ryka Vom Nobleheim



Calypso

 

It is Official! I am an addict

….a dog addict that is. My house is a mess. The clothes are not folded (they are clean.) The sink is full of dirty dishes. The tub needs scrubbing. My husband needs to be fed. My hair needs washing, (and, are these the same clothes I had on yesterday?) and the floor needs mopping. But, who cares? I am having a ball.

Taking care of a three year old shepherd and a six week old puppy is all consuming, at least if you are me. I go into the garage about 6:30 a.m. where they each have a kennel and the minute I quietly open the door, they sense and see my presence. The little monkey (Calypso) starts hopping around and yelping and Ryka sits up in her kennel. I grab their respective bowls and starting dishing out breakfast.

Ryka Vom Nobleheim

I let Ryka out of her kennel, at which point I am greeted with lots of wet kisses (I love being loved), and we head out to the little pen/yard. I give her breakfast, then close the gate behind me and go back in to get Calypso (who at six weeks is patiently, well not that patiently, waiting to potty.) I grab her bowl of food and she hops along (literally, she has learned to hop/run) and follows me out of the door. She heads out to the grass and does her business (with lots of praise.)

She eats a few bites and then heads over to the little yard to find Ryka. Ryka is more important than eating to her. After only three days, she has learned her way from the back door to the little yard, truly amazing! You can see in the pictures what transpires once she gets there. They play and nip through the fence. The little monkey then runs around and teases Ryka through the fence and they run around playing. It is just the cutest game to watch.

The two girls played together on Saturday, but by Sunday Calypso was getting very frisky and Ryka, a little too comfortable and less careful so for the present time, they can only play through the kennel bars or the fence. They seem quite content with that arrangement so far.

After about thirty minutes of this play, Jeffery comes out and gets Calypso and brings her in the garage to play and eat (he loves this but he’ll never admit it) and Ryka gets her turn to run around. She has become accustomed to a large yard; and she loves playing with the horses next door. Even with all the activity around us (chickens, cows, horses) she winds up on the front porch with me.

Ryka is already very attached to me (and I to her) and she follows me around, never straying more than a few feet. I have been leaving her outside for stretches of time on her own and she always ends up at the front door as Sentry did. I have developed a horrible habit of clomping through the house so she knows where I am (I am so afraid I will find myself clomping somewhere away from home.) If I do not, she runs from front door to back door looking for me. I have even taken to leaving the front window open so I can talk to her.

As I said, I am having the time of my life (and I think my husband, Jeffery, is too) but, the housework needs to be done and the clothes folded. The “children” are napping for the moment so I had better get busy. The next round of potty and playing will be here soon enough!

Calypso