If any of you recognize the above quote, yes it is from A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. One of my most favorite books.
I've debated whether I should blog about this subject as it was the most personal and painful of times for me. But, in the end, I want people to know that sometimes these awful events don't just happen to "other" people, they can happen to you. And, if they do happen to you, you can survive (albeit with LOTS of help from friends, family and even total strangers).
Five years ago, The Washington Post printed my letter to the editor regarding my friend Paul Cano. I was shocked and amazed that they did, seeing it had nothing to do with the events of the day nor was it a reply to a story they wrote. On this upcoming 15th anniversary I will reprint the letter here. It is in its original form as the editorial editors took out most of the personal things, which I guess was best. The anniversary is coming at the end of the week, but since I will be dealing with traveling to Puerto Rico, I decided to post this on another anniversary. The 8th of July, 1992 was the last day I ever saw Paul Cano.
Fifteen years ago on July 15, I received a phone call that my closest friend Paul Cano had not shown up for work. Two weeks of media attention and desperate searching ensued, ending with the discovery of his body by children playing in a heavily wooded park near Bolling Air Force Base. He had been shot in the head.
What have his family and friends learned about his murder over the past 15 years? Absolutely nothing. I realized long ago that I would have to go through life never knowing who killed Paul, why he was killed, and what his last moments of life were like.
I can now look back at the weeks, months and years following his death and realize how much I was in shock. People were calling and offering their support—telling me how well I was holding up. They didn’t know that Paul’s death had not yet become real to me. At that time, the only reality I knew and thought about were those two weeks of searching for Paul. During that time, I saw a side of Washington that in my now 25 years of living here, I never thought I would experience.
The news media were always giving us advice on what to do and waiting to help in any way that they could without being intrusive. Paul’s co-workers at the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists and his friends who helped take charge of the situation by immediately setting up crisis counseling sessions and making their offices available at any time for meetings of search volunteers and for generating the thousands of flyers that were distributed across the city. The countless people dropping off food, and Paul’s Capitol Hill neighbors offering up their cars and homes whenever we might need them. The priests at Holy Comforter Catholic Church consoled Paul’s family and friends and prayed for his safe return. When we thought Paul was alive but injured somewhere in Arlington—the homeless people who promised to look out for him. The Boy Scouts who searched for Paul in the Arlington parks. The Metro police officer who took the time to talk to me at 1:30 in the morning at my neighborhood 7-11 and, just getting off duty, telling me he would drive around the local parks and look for Paul before going home for the night. The cab drivers on that same morning who stood in line waiting for me to hand out flyers about Paul so they could give them to passengers, then driving away waving and saying “God bless you and your friend.” That was my reality. It deeply angered and saddened me to know that, along with Paul, so many good people and good deeds in the Washington, DC area could be wiped out by a single person with a gun.
Fifteen years later I no longer have to remind myself that Paul is dead. To quote a line from a poem by Margaret Flanagan: “Now, his absence is my constant companion.” I have learned that Paul’s violent and senseless death is something I will never “get over.” But through hard work, love and support from friends, family and remembering the good people of the Washington, DC area, I have learned to live with this loss and have built a new life without Paul’s constant companionship, humor, and love.
I miss the everyday companionship of Paul. He made the most mundane things fun. He gave me the nickname "possumlady"
Lighting sparklers on top of a friend's office roof to watch the fireworks one 4th of July in DC