Empathy, Compassion, and Strength of Character in Annapolis
From the Archive: Originally posted 9/6/13
Yesterday was a big day in the Justice For Ethan movement. Over 340,000 signatures were delivered to Governor O’Malley in Annapolis.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what a HUGE accomplishment that is. In my opinion, getting that many people to sign, after such a long an arduous process, was nothing short of a miracle. It was the combination of some inspired writing by Emma, one compassionate politician, the power of social media, and some dedicated and awesome reporting. The stars aligned correctly (finally) and Ethan began to get the attention he deserved.
I thought about Adam, Ethan’s ‘little’ brother. I’ll forever see him in my mind as “the baby” since he was very young when I moved away from Frederick. Looking at him now, that picture obviously needs some revision. Today, he’s a young man who appears to be the “teddy bear” type, strong on the outside with deep emotions about his family that he tries to hide from everybody else. I thought about Ron, the devoted Dad, also the strong, silent type, who looks completely uncomfortable behind a sea of cameras. I thought about Emma, the beautiful, brave young woman, thrust into her mother’s footsteps as an advocate. She’s apparently tough as nails when it comes to roller derby, but this would be different. I thought about Patti.
How would I handle dealing with this situation? I’m sure there have been a lot of mothers over the past few months who have unwillingly imagined being in her place. Yes, I believe that when you love someone, you just do what you have to. You never know how strong you are until you’re tested. On the night before the trip to Annapolis, I thought about having to ask strangers for help. I thought about this woman, Mom, nurse, sister, advocate, friend, and how she usually handles her own “stuff,” along with everyone else’s when she’s asked to. Here she was, about to appear in public with cameras and cell phones, and total internet access to every word, asking a politician to understand her and her family. She’d go right up there and deliver the voices of 340,000 people, mostly strangers, to an elected official. She’d be asking him for help understanding why her beloved Ethan wasn’t with her that day.
I don’t know how they did it. I am glad that there were people with them who cared and supported their efforts. Thanks again Susan Goodman, Sara Weir, Debra Alfarone, and all the other supporters who made the trip!
Thursday morning I was emotionally and physically drained as I stared at the computer waiting for news. I began to send tweets to Governor O’Malley, wondering if they or the thousands of comments on the petition even made a difference. As pictures began to show up (thanks to an employee of Change.org, Pulin Modi), I quickly shared them on Facebook for my friends who aren’t Twitter-savy. I was anxious, worried, and feeling pretty useless being so far away.
For the record, I’m not in any way trying to make this story about me and my feelings. I’m only sharing these thoughts because I’m guessing, from reading many of the comments on the petition that I’m not the only one having them. When a tragedy like this occurs, many automatically empathize with those involved and sometimes we can see ourselves in their place. Sometimes we think, “I’d do this or that differently, better,” but sometimes we’re inspired by how other people handle stressful situations with apparent ease and grace. I’m awed by the Saylor family’s strength and commitment to getting justice. It would be easy for them to walk away to grieve in private and say that it’s too hard. Patti told us, the love she has for Ethan is what got her through the day.
I only hope that Governor O’Malley has some sense of just how hard yesterday, and the past eight months must have been for them. I hope he shows some compassion for their quest. I hope he hears the many voices that empathize and struggle with them. I hope he realizes that while a dedication to training may help in the future (more on that later) the only way for this family, and many, many others, to feel safe and sleep soundly is to have answers to the hard questions. This will require strength on his part, strength like the Saylors showed yesterday, strength of character that we wish our elected officials would display. I hope that he finds the strength and courage to do the right thing and authorize an independent investigation. Maybe, if the stars were aligned again yesterday, some of that strength rubbed of while the Saylors were in his office.
As for me, I’m still trying to find the left side of my brain. If/when I do, I’ll write more logically, or at least less emotionally, about what happened yesterday… until then