June 10, 1994
The little girl bolted up at 7:05am. She was confused for a minute, forgetting where she was. After looking around the guest room she remembered that she was with Leah. After figuring out where she was, she relaxed and lay back down. She slept, but fitfully, feeling awkward, but not knowing why.
At 7:30am she got out of bed and dressed quietly. She walked into the living room to find Leah finishing up her preparations for work. Leah had obtained a summer job at a church daycare and had to be at work at 8. Leah’s grandmother would drop the child home on the way to taking Leah to work. Fifteen minutes later, they were in the car on the way to the girl’s house. Upon pulling up to the house, they noticed a couple of cop cars and some police tape. At first, the trio thought something had happened at a nearby house. It wasn’t until the police officer approached the car as it parked outside of the house that they saw that the police tape was around the girl’s house.
The girl, still half sleep and not completely understanding, got out of the car, and started towards her home. She was stopped by the next door neighbor who approached her wringing her hands.
“You need to come to my house.” She was saying. The girl had known the woman most of her life, as it was a very small town and they attended the same church, but the woman always weirded the child out a little.
“I’ll be fine.” The little girl retorted. In her mind, the period of alarm had passed.
“Your mother told me you should really come over here.” The woman insisted.
“No, I’ve been a latch-key kid since I was 8, I’ll be fine.” The girl said again moving towards her house.
“I’m trying to tell you your mother is in the hospital!” The woman blurted. The girl stopped mid stride and faced the woman.
“You mean my sister is in the hospital.” The girl said slowly and deliberately, certain the woman misheard the message delivered by my mother.
“No. Your mother is in the hospital! Your step-dad broke in and shot her this morning.” She said again urgently.
All of the air left my lungs. All sound except for the blood rushing in my ears ceased. My vision clouded.
She wasn’t supposed to go home. I thought to myself. She was supposed to go straight to work and then home and we’re supposed to go to Austin or Camp Meeting.
“Is she alive?” I stammered.
“I think so. She was when they took her. That was about an hour ago.” My neighbor said.
I checked my watch. It was close to 8am. Briefly I thought back to my jolt at 7:05am that morning at Leah’s house. I don’t really put a lot of salt to “psychic” anything, but I will say, something woke me and wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. Some call it a “psychic” feeling, I prefer to think it God; it all depends on your beliefs.
I faintly heard a sob from the street. I looked over to find Leah crying her eyes out and her Grandmother trying to speak to a police officer. I had momentarily forgotten that they were still there. I walked over to Leah.
“I’m so sorry, B.” She said to me. I gave her a hug. That’s all I could do. Her grandmother walked over and hugged me.
“They don’t know much.” She said. I nodded absently.
“Go ahead and go.” I told them.
“Are you sure?” They both asked. I nodded again. At the time I had no idea what I was going to do, I figured I’d sit in the house until someone came over to get me. They fussed a little more over me, and after a few minutes they were gone. As I watched them drive away I started to notice the crowd that gathered around my house. People looked at me with pitiful looks. I heard whispers of, “That’s her daughter.” Or “Poor thing.” But no one took a step towards me. Even the police officers carried on securing the area and didn’t seem to notice I was there.
I turned and approached the house again. That got a cop’s attention.
“Excuse me? Who are you?” He asked me.
“This is my house. My mother was the one shot.” I said tersely. His look softened.
“You can’t go in there. It’s a crime scene.” He said softly. It didn’t occur to me that there would be an investigation going on. I guess my head didn’t wrap itself around the fact that they hadn’t caught my step-father yet.
“Oh.” I said absently. I was still holding a bag of clothes that I had taken to Leah’s. “Can I put this in my room? It’s right there I can put it in through the window.” I said pointing at the exterior window.
The cop looked at the window and studied me for a while. He looked around nervously, then finally said, “Go ahead.”
After putting my clothes in my bedroom, I walked around the yard aimlessly, still feeling the eyes of the rubbernecking neighbors on me. The only neighbor I knew was the next door neighbor, who was waiting for me to go to her house. I really didn’t want to. I sat down on the curb outside my house and just stared aimlessly. A couple of police officers came passed in front of me. Every time one came in my line of vision, I asked the question I was afraid to know.
“Is my mom alive?”
None of them could answer me. They kind of shrugged and went on questioning neighbors. I just sat there, for God knows how long, on the curb, alone and terrified. I didn’t have a way to call anyone. (No cell phones back then.) I didn’t want to go to the neighbors’ house. I just sat on the curb trying to breathe.
The unmarked cruiser came barreling down the road a little while later. I can’t tell you how long, because I really don’t know how long I sat there. I looked up at as the car pulled up on the scene, thinking it was another cop from the city we lived in, until the driver got out. It was my mom’s boss, a Lt. at the police department she worked in, the next town over.
Lt. Laseman kinda scared me. Looking back, I think he had scoliosis or something, but he almost had a hunch. He walked very slowly and deliberately, and he reminded me kind of a turtle. He was nice enough to me when I visited my mom’s job, but I don’t know, he was older, and you know how kids are with older people who look, “funny.” He also had a very gruff voice. Like he had been gargling gravel or something with a heavy southern drawl.
As soon as Lt. Laseman got out of his cruiser, he surveyed the scene and his eyes landed on me. Our eyes met, and his gaze softened tremendously, and rather than going to any of the other cops, he began to walk directly to the curb on which I sat. I stood up and ran to him, forgetting the fact that he reminded me of a turtle. He gave me a hug, and I prayed he knew the answer to my question.
“Lt. Laseman, is my mom alive?” I asked him with my face in his belly.
“I really don’t know, but we’re going to go find out.” He said. He put me in his car and talked to the CO on the crime scene for a minute. To this day, I don’t know exactly what they talked about, but when Laseman showed his badge, and I assume told the CO that the woman who had been shot was with the PD in the next town. After talking the CO’s face turned grim, and he stopped talking and nodded a lot. Laseman shook his hand and got into the car where I was waiting.
“Buckle up kid.” Laseman said in his gravel voice. “We’re gonna go pretty fast.”
He put the car in gear and told me what he knew. Apparently after the shooting, my mom had been sent to Ft. Worth on Care Flight as Ft. Worth had the closest trauma center. It was 40 minutes away, but via helicopter it wouldn’t have taken that long. He got his information from the CO on the scene, and that’s all he knew. He told me that when he found out, he had one of his officers call my brother, and he took the responsibility of driving to our house, and finding out what happened and also to find out what happened to me.
“We heard the call on the radio, and it only mentioned your mom. We were wondering where you were. You got some worried folks at the dept right now.” He said reaching for his radio. I stared out the window as I overheard him relay in his policeman code that he was on his way to the hospital, and that I was fine.
The dispatcher, a lady who always gave me candy when I visited my mom at the station said, “Thank God. 10-4.”
I was listening to all this but not realizing the implication of it all, because I was so concerned with the well being of my mom.
When we made it to the hospital Lt. Laseman lead me into the ER badging his way past the red tape I would’ve run into without him. When we finally go back to one of the triage rooms, the doctor was telling Laseman that my mom was indeed alive, and that they were prepping her for surgery. He didn’t seem keen on letting me back, until Laseman used his gravel voice to persuade him otherwise. He lead us to the room and when the door opened I saw my mother on the gurney, and then I saw the blood.
My God, there was so much blood.
The prep nurse looked up shocked to see a kid coming back, which made my mom turn her head.
She turned her head. She was moving.
I walked slowly to her, and the first thing she said was:
“There’s my baby. How are you?”
That’s when I lost it. I kept my brave face on the hold time. I didn’t shed a tear from the time the whole ordeal started until that moment. I saw the blood the pain she was going through, and the first thing she said to me was, ‘how are you’? I began to bawl like a big baby.
“Don’t cry baby, Momma’s gonna be alright.” She told me. She reached for me painfully. I walked to her and took her hand, still bawling. My brother entered the room and halted when he saw our mother. His voice cracked.
“Mom?” He said from the door. I turned and saw my big brother, the one man that I looked up to and trusted with everything, the person who took care of me as if I were his child almost crack before my eyes. I opened my arm, and stepped to the side for him to come to my mom’s bedside. He put his arm around me and I handed him my mom’s bloody hand.
“Hey baby.” She smiled weakly at him. We stood there not saying much, me blubbering, and my brother fighting tears. The doctor entered and said he had to take her to surgery. Reluctantly we stepped away from the bed and watched them wheel our mother to the OR.