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Everything’s Different Now

I’ll never forget the phone call that Friday morning from my son. Now a freshman at the University of Maine, Josh was 16 at the time, still a junior in high school.

“Dad, a girl was stabbed at school this morning.”

Josh was calling me from home. Students had been dismissed from school early because of the crisis. The victim, Maren, was also a junior. She was one of Josh’s classmates, someone that he knew. Her attacker, Chris, was a junior too and shared some of the same classes as my son.

I was stunned, filled with disbelief. That turned out to be a very common and widespread reaction in the hours and days ahead. We soon learned that Maren died at the local hospital as aresult of “multiple lacerations to the neck, face and chest.”

It was junior prom night.

Maren’s closest friends later said that Chris had asked her to go to the prom with him Thursday night. She said no. The next morning, he killed her.

I remember wondering if there had been any outward sign prior to the attack that Chris might be capable of hurting someone, any warning that he might become violent. When I asked Josh about it, his answer emphatic. “No. He’s the last person you’d ever expect.”

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

It’s been nearly two years since the incident changed everything for my son and his classmates. I asked Josh about a week ago if he wanted to write about it for the AWP blog. He declined, saying “…it is still too soon. I have even thought about writing about it for my English class this semester but I am not going to. I am still teary eyed by just thinking about it.”

Fair enough. And I was going to leave it at that, but as it turns out Chris was in the news again this week. As the judicial process grinds slowly on, it made me think about how the consequences of our actions ripple outward, affecting many other people besides ourselves, and how they also travel far forward in time.

No one can change what happened, but we can always choose how we respond to violence. At the one year anniversary of Maren’s death, her family and friends decided they wanted the day to celebrate her life instead of mourn her death. As the junior class advisor put it, “We wanted to flip the script… to reclaim what had happened for a positive outcome.” They succeeded. It ended up being a joyous day attended by more than 1,000 people.

As the second anniversary approaches this year, I’ll remind my son that I love him. And that tears are okay.

Michael Hicks
AWP Communications Manager

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