“So many roads, so much at stake. So many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake.”
Dateline: Greyhawkin’ Lake Harris
At night, she slept in a closet.
She gathered up her two young children, opened up the closet door, stepped in, locked it, and in the darkness beneath the clothes, held her children.
Fear, that they all would be killed.
Elite angler Randy Howell cried as he tried to tell me her story. Randy met the lady of the closet, he knows her name, I know her name. We’re not going to tell you.
She is 14.
Her mother, addicted to drugs has been in prison most of those 14 years. She has no idea who her father is, she has no known relatives.
14 all alone.
In her young life she has been in 29 foster homes.
She has been sexually abused by a teacher.
She has been sexually abused by a foster parent.
“db when I talked to her, when I talked to her (long pause as tears run down Randy’s cheeks) I’m sorry db, my 3rd Kleenex when I talked to her she just had this blank stare.blank stare.”
So you know because this isn’t TV, when you see this in a quote from Randy this means, tears. And sometimes, sobs.
“I asked her what is it you want to be when you grow up, and she told me. told me. nurse.”
But then the 14 year old girl added, “I’d like to be a nurse but have really never, never thought I could be a nurse. I probably will never be.”
“At that point db I just”¦I just broke down crying”¦broke down crying in front of a whole roomful of kids.’
Kids just like the 14 year old who dreams of helping others even though for most of her life, no one ever helped her.
Randy met her and knows her name, I know her name. We’re not telling.
I was going to take the time to stick some facts in this story, google how many spouses (women AND men) are abused in the United States every year.
Was going to look up the same stats for abused children. I’m sure someone knows it and it would take 0.00023 seconds for me to know it as well.
But then I thought, why bother.
When really only one number counts.
One abused spouse is too many.
One abused child is too many.
Thousands is not an issue, not a social problem, not a Cause Celebre.
Thousands, is a horror. A social catastrophe.
To pummel our young, to sexually abuse our children, to beat and kill our wives, our husbands, is to be a society without a soul.
We are not a civilization if we maim our children.
We are not a civilization if we maim our spouses.
When a woman locks herself in her closet so as to not be killed in her own house by the man she married.
When a 14 year old child is yanked from one home to another home 29 times, while being sexually abused along the way by the adults there to protect her.
Be ashamed. For we have become, savages.
And if we are to be judged not only on what we have done, but also on what we didn’t do, those of us who have looked the other way, or not looked at all, will have some answering to do, with no excuses, allowed.
I’m looking at a coward.
And he is in chains. From where I sit this minute in the db/bb/re I can see a man in handcuffs sitting in the back of a police cruiser. Two cruisers, and one K-9 unit are now in the RV park.
I’m told the woman who lives with the man in chains has a black eye. And bruises.
If you abuse your spouse, you are a coward.
If you abuse your children, you are a coward.
All bullies are cowards. But I believe that when all is said and done, and the cowards stand before whomever it is that will decide where the cowards will spend eternity, the cowards need to know one thing right now.
Whom you answer to, is not afraid of you. Whom you answer to will have compassion for your victims. None for you.
In a ying/yang universe the respect you give, is the respect you will receive.
The police are all around Elite angler John Murray’s motorhome, the man in chains came from the cottage on the other side of John’s RV. As the police drive away all I’m watching are the Murray’s through their picture window.
John is next to his wife, Amy
And Amy is holding their two year old boy, TJ. Love and hate under the Florida palms and Winnebago lights.
As the police came into the campground, so did Elite Angler Randy and Robin Howell, all peacocked up and bragging about the sushi dinner they just had. They laugh at the look on my face knowing my feelings on eating bait. I told them the over/under on how good they will be feeling later is 8hrs.
I took the under.
I’m leaning in the driver’s window talking to Randy, and watching the police action less than a 50 yard field goal away, Randy starts talking about the new wrap on his boat and truck: King’s Home.
I nod politely, but after being a crime reporter for so long I’m mainly paying attention to what’s going on with our neighbors bathed in red lights. Some of the worst outcomes I’ve had to cover have all been domestic dispute calls that suddenly went bad. I’m impressed that whatever town we are parked in has sent three patrol cars, including K-9, to answer the call. Two big guys, and one policewoman. Smart town this.
All the while, Randy is talking to me. Finally, I ask, “King’s what?”
“What’s that,” I ask and back up a bit to actually look at the wrap, and see it. I’m thinking it’s a home builder or something like it.
Then Randy answers with this, “It’s a home for victimized, abused, frightened boys and girls, they even have Hannah Homes for abused women.”
And bathed in red and blue lights, I smile.
Been here, done that. By now I’m becoming more aware of what I call messages from the universe. And this one, was a 2×4 upside the head.
I’m standing watching a domestic dispute police action while leaning on the truck of an Elite angler sponsored by a group who provide safe haven for victims of domestic abuse.
See what I mean about this universe thing.
Sometimes, subtlety isn’t in the stars.
I am a smelly, scruffy, scratching my-own-self, polluting, fat, Margarita drinking, what’s left of shoulder length hair, fashion-challenged old man in white ankle socks and Hawaiian shirts.
I am a hippie, with a gun permit. I vote every election, no one I have ever voted for has won. I am a compassionate cynic. I will give up my life to save you, just don’t hug me.
Elite angler Randy Howell is the exact opposite of all of that. I’m the stuff of paper plates, he’s fine china. He’s Ward Cleaver, I’m Homer Simpson.
And we are the best of friends. Know that bias, remember that bias.
Being that I’m kind of a word guy, I tend to judge people by the words they use. Language shows me their hearts, I don’t care if they speak correctly or not, I don’t, but I do clue into the color of their words.
The soul of a person can be found in their words, and in interviews when I hear those special words, I write them down.
To know Randy you need to know those special words. These:
“My children have a compassionate heart.”
And my favorite, “Sensitive spirit.” I circled it several times. Sensitive Spirit.
Randy was once at a gas station filling his boat when two guys started fighting. Randy watching it started crying, “I just felt horrible that the one guy losing was someone’s son”¦and I have two sons….” He stops as he once again smells the gasoline, smells the violence, and reaches for another Kleenex.
So imagine this, Randy gets invited to come to King’s Home to talk to the abused children, talk about fishing.
“I had this whole speech planned but db it never dawned on me how bad a life these kids have had “¦ it hit me so hard “¦ I’ve never seen this side of the world … I always turned my face from it on TV or at the movies “¦ I never wanted to hear of it.”
A 14 year old abused girl changed all that. Randy couldn’t turn his face, because where ever he turned it too, sat another child, beaten and bruised.
“I broke down, was balling, but it was then that I broke through to them, up until then they just had blank stares, but when I started crying I saw smiles on their faces, and I just started hugging them.”
And while held safely in his arms, this is what Randy told the children, “Ya’ll are important, don’t ever forget that, you were made for a purpose. Everybody here is made for greatness.”
I circled GREATNESS as well.
Sitting across the RV dinette from me, dabbing his eyes throughout the entire conversation, I ask my friend this, “Dude, this isn’t your world is it, have you ever been exposed to this kind of stuff before.”
Another Kleenex before he answers, “No … never had it in my family … never knew anyone growing up that went through anything like this … I grew up sheltered in a loving family, never saw anything like it until that day I walked into King’s Home “¦ and met … and met … the victims.”
A Boat, Named Hope
You want the definition of “Sensitive Spirit,” here it is:
After seeing all of that, face to face with an ugly world, Randy goes home, talks to his wife Robin, and come up with a plan.
They are GIVING King’s Home, Randy’s boat. For the kids. King’s Home is raffling off the boat, $100 a ticket they hope to sell 1,000 tickets and raise $100,000. Once the boat and all the boat stuff gets paid off, if all the tickets as sold, King’s Home will raise about $50,000.
For the abused under their roof. Children. Women.
“They are the ones who came up with the name for my boat”¦Hope. Every time I launch it I think to myself, Hope “¦ Floats “¦ ”
There is hope, if people like Randy, people who were never beaten growing up, who don’t beat their loved ones now, there is hope, when they step forward, and say enough is enough.
And do something to stop it. No offense Randy, but it might not be you that will do it.
I think, it will be Laker and Oakley Howell. Randy and Robin’s two young boys.
They sat in the back seat of the Howell’s truck and pretended to be playing video games.
But they were scared. I could see it, I could feel it.
“It was the first time I ever saw anything like that, it was like COPS outside the truck window,” then Randy added, “I want to be the best father, the best loving Dad I can be so that my boys will never have to feel fear.”
All that changed this cool Florida night.
Fear covered the boys. Fear will stay with the boys. Someday, maybe it has already happened, the boys will ask of the events of the night in the sandy RV campground.
And fine china will come face to face with paper plates.
As a reporter I told the world about horror while shielding my children from it. We raised them in a Leave It To Beaver neighborhood in a Norman Rockwell New England town.
As have the Howells. And probably you as well.
I should have brought Ashley and Jimmy with me to a crime scene. Bathed them in the horror, the smell of fear.
Smash, the fine china.
Because I too know that my children, and hopefully yours as well, have what Randy said about Laker and Oakley, “A compassionate heart. A sensitive spirit.”
And will do what we the savages have been unable to do.
As the Howells drove away I could see the two tiny heads in the back seat, and knew there lays our hope.
Those who have seen it this young, will not turn their face from it, they will go face to face with the cowards. The will know the face of evil when they see it.
They will know where the closets are with those cowering within.
They will know that 29 HOMES is 28 to many.
Because they, will not be savages.
They will be
And save us.
“sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take,
to find dignity.”