This Isn’t What I Planned to Write

I know I said I’d be back here writing over a month ago, and I had every intention of doing so. I planned on writing the answers to some “thought-provoking questions” as an outlet for myself, and anyone else who may have stumbled upon it. I planned on perhaps writing a review of a book I’m currently reading (and should be done with by now). I planned on writing about a recent episode of Dateline or 48 Hours.

I wasn’t planning on writing about another tragedy happening close to me. The third–or fourth if you count the DC Sniper attacks–I’ve been personally effected by since 2001. I’d hesitate to say it’s becoming a trend every few years, but I’d also be lying if I didn’t say I’m noticing a pattern.

Maybe it’s a pattern with me–wherever I am, these things follow. Or wherever I go, there’s some sort of anomaly that happens while I’m there. Or maybe I’ve been in some of the worst places in recent years of this country at the worst times. Or maybe God has slowly, over the last fifteen years, revealed to me His heart, His feelings, and His love for what He’s created. Everything and everyone He’s created.

Because let’s be honest: I was angry after 9/11. I was angry at bin Laden. I was angry at al Qaeda once I grasped what had happened to our country at just fourteen years old. I mean, the organization attempted to murder my own father that day. I had every right to be upset. I had every right to want bin Laden, and the rest of them, to suffer the way so many innocent people did on that day. I, like most Americans, was upset and stripped of my innocence when it comes to this world and the people in it.

I was angry at the DC Sniper just a year later. Living in his area of attacks, I was angry I wasn’t allowed to walk off the bus without being escorted by a policeman every morning. I was angry we couldn’t even pump gas without being covered by a tarp and feeling the need to always be moving because we had no idea if he was staring at us through the barrel of his sniper rifle.

I was angry with Cho after he murdered a friend of a friend, a former classmate, at Virginia Tech in 2007. I was angry that anyone could ever point a gun at that sweet girl (let alone the others also killed) with the intention of killing her. I was angry her life was cut so short when she could have been so much more in this world. I was angry he decided to go down, taking his own life, along with 30+ others for no sensible reason.

And today, I’m angry that there are people out there who are suffering. I’m angry that they’re suffering because their loved one is gone for, once again, a reason that doesn’t make sense to us. A reason that, perhaps, could have had a different outcome if maybe, just maybe, that person had not spent so much of his life suffering himself.

And I feel angry that whatever was going on in this man’s life, he chose to go out the way that he did. Once again, a miserable person has dragged down more than fifty people as a result of his own unhappiness, his own feelings, and his own agenda.

Right? Isn’t that what it comes down to? I look at this man and I see so much unhappiness, so much hatred, and so much darkness. And I have to wonder what brought this man to this point. What happens in a person’s life to make them want to evilly laugh as he killed innocent people begging for their lives in a bathroom? What was so awful within his heart and mind that he decided this was the way to go?

Seeing the response from this community over the last two days, I’ve realized something. And perhaps I’ll be chastised for saying this, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s sad to me that this is what it takes for a community to come together and define ourselves as “one” and to say and show we “love” one another. This is what it takes for us to pray for each other. So what were we doing before? Where was this love and unity prior to Sunday? Where were the prayers for all of those suffering before this attack–perhaps even those suffering who committed such acts? I wish it didn’t take the loss of fifty innocent lives in our community for us to take a step back, see the big picture, and love each other, accept each other, and encourage each other. I wish we did this anyway, without a tragedy catapulting us in this direction.

So after the dust settles and we find ourselves back in our usual routine, feeling whole again after that hollow, carved-out feeling disappears beneath our skin, may we remember what it felt like in these days to love, accept, and pray for one another. And maybe we will feel inclined to continue to love, accept, and pray for each other every day. Because we will never know how much someone could be suffering inside and could use some love, acceptance, and prayer from complete strangers.

“For what you intended for evil, God intended for good.” -Genesis 50:20


Birthday Collection

Born on August 1 in Germany.
My 11th birthday in Virginia. Spice Girls themed, of course!
My 11th birthday in Virginia. Spice Girls themed, of course!
My 17th Birthday in Florida with new friends.
My 17th Birthday in Florida with new friends.
"It's mah birthday!" 18 at Downtown Disney.
“It’s mah birthday!” 18 at Downtown Disney.
Finally 21 at Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida.
Finally 21 at Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida.
22nd birthday margarita at Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida.
22nd birthday margarita at Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Orlando, Florida.
23rd Birthday at Margaritaville at CityWalk in Orlando, Florida.
23rd Birthday at Margaritaville at CityWalk in Orlando, Florida.
24th birthday shot at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse in Longwood, Florida.
24th birthday shot at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse in Longwood, Florida.


Why I Believe Casey Anthony’s Verdict was Correct

It’s been almost two years since the trial of Casey Anthony and I still find myself comparing so many cases that I read about and follow to her case. But the truth is, no two cases are the same and there is no way I could successfully compare her case to another and have it make sense.

I have lived in Orlando for nearly eight years. I was here when Caylee was missing and I was here when Casey made bond and I was here for the trial. Being a local in the town where such a high profile case is taking place meant that there was no silence in this case. Everything, all the time, was Casey Anthony. In fact, I lived about three blocks from the Orange County courthouse and never had I ever seen reporters literally set up a campground in the vacant lots surrounding it before the Casey Anthony trial went underway.

Anyway, I tried to follow and watch the trial as much as I could, but a lot of it was hard to watch. It was draining. I was unemployed at the time, and I was already depressed as it was about my not being “good enough” for a job, but watching this trial all day each day made me sink further into sadness, so I tried to not let it consume me.

On the fifth day of the trial, I started laughing while hearing Jose Baez make his ridiculous claims. It was then that I realized, and knew, without a doubt, that there was no way a jury could convict her. This trial was an absolute circus. The more I watched from that point on, the more I realized that I was right. I knew the verdict would come back “not guilty,” despite what the court of public opinion believed.

My mom thought I was crazy. My mom’s mom thought I was crazy. And I think that they thought that me saying that the jury would find her “not guilty” meant that I thought that Casey was innocent. “Not guilty” does not mean innocent in a trial. It means that the jury came to the conclusion that there is not enough evidence to support that this person absolutely, without a doubt, no questions asked, did commit this crime. And that was exactly what happened in this case.

I have to hand it to Casey. She committed the perfect crime. It rarely happens these days, especially with DNA coming as far as it has in recent years. DNA evidence (fingerprints, footprints, hairs, fibers, blood) makes it damn-near impossible to commit such a crime and get away with it. But she did. And that is what brought this jury to no other conclusion other than “not guilty.”

1. There was no crime scene. There are many speculations on what was the potential crime scene in this case. The family pool, the car, Casey’s bedroom, Caylee’s bedroom. But the facts are this: we do not know where this crime actually took place. There are no fingerprints to gather, no footprints, and no fibers to gather to try to place Casey at the crime scene, because there is no crime scene. The closest thing that came to a “crime scene” was where Caylee’s body was found but I do not think anyone believes the actual crime took place in that swamp. And even if it did, it is just that — a swamp. Water washes away evidence. Especially when it’s been sitting there for six months through many torrential storms.

2. Since there was no crime scene, there are no eyewitnesses. If there is no place where they can determine this crime took place, then there is no way that anyone can come forward and say that they saw it happen. There were no eyewitnesses that said, for instance, they saw Casey put Caylee in the trunk. Or saw Casey throw Caylee’s lifeless body into the swamp. There was no one who personally saw Casey doing anything to Caylee that could make a jury arrive to the conclusion that she did in fact kill Caylee and dispose of her body.

3. There is no cause of death. If the medical examiner could have determined an exact cause to Caylee’s death, I think that may have been a factor that could have possibly swayed the jury one way or the other. If her cause of death was determined to be strangulation, for example, then we would know that someone would have had to strangle Caylee for her to die. Caylee could not have strangled herself. If the cause of death was determined to be that she drowned, then there would be that possibility that she accidentally drowned, not that someone purposefully drowned her. If the cause of death was determined to be neck-breaking, then that could have gone hand-in-hand with the internet searches that were found on the family’s computer. But the fact is this: there was no cause of death that was able to be determined. Therefore, it could have been anything. That is quite possibly the biggest factor that worked to Casey’s advantage, and that was the amount of time the body had to decompose to get rid of all evidence that could have been on the body to determine a cause of death.

4. There was no hard evidence. When the death penalty is on the table (like it was in this case), these days, juries need to see hard evidence so they know that if they are going to put someone to death, they absolutely have the right person. The death penalty was going to be a possibility for Casey if she was convicted of first-degree murder and I think that made the jury nervous. So, they needed to have hard evidence that makes it absolutely irrefutable that this person committed this crime. And in the case of Casey Anthony, there was no hard evidence. The closest thing they had to “hard” evidence was the supposed “smell of a dead body,” and smell is an interesting thing when it comes to the law. Smell is something that can very from person to person. It’s something that one person may perceive one way, but the next person could perceive it another way. It’s not like you can smell something and say, “yep, that person is dead!” It’s completely subjective to the person smelling. Kind of like a “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” situation. It’s not like they can preserve the smell in a jar and pass it around and have everyone agree with what it smells like. It can’t be shown on a slide, it can’t be seen on a surveillance tape, and it can’t be heard on a recording. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a case where “smell” determined someone’s fate or was held up in the court as hard evidence. Because, it is just not hard evidence.

I could continue to make points here, but I think that I would really just end up with an outline of points that all fell under each one of these major categories.

I believe that this jury actually did their duty as a whole. They followed the law, and they went off of the evidence that was presented in the trial. If any person bases this case off of this trial alone (not off of emotions or what the news or media says), then I believe that they would come to the exact same conclusion. I do not believe that there is one jury member who believes that Casey is innocent. In fact, I think if they all could talk to me (or anyone else) as a whole, they would all say that they absolutely think she did it, but there just was not evidence given in the trial to support a guilty verdict.

I believe that this was not a case of the jury “buying the defense’s story,” either. It makes me mad to hear people say that the jury (and myself, since I believed so early they would find her not guilty) believed Jose Baez’s claims and his defense strategy. Because I can almost guarantee that they did not believe it. And that’s the other thing about this case — you didn’t have to believe the defense to come to a “not guilty” verdict.

I also do not believe that Jose is the “one person” who swayed the jury. I can almost say, too, that he doesn’t deserve credit for the verdict. (But that’s not the case since it wasn’t a single person who was responsible for the verdict) He is not some amazing lawyer that got a guilty person acquitted. He was a defense lawyer that represented Casey as she is entitled to have by law. Because I guarantee, too, that it was not his story that made the jury go, “Oh yeah…maybe she didn’t do it. Maybe George did do it! Let’s find Casey not guilty.”

No. Not going to happen.

Thank you, jury of the Casey Anthony trial. You did your job. You followed the law. And you came to correct conclusion based on what was presented in this trial. And maybe some of you know that though you may have found her “not guilty,” you do not have the last word. God will be the ultimate Judge of Casey and He knows what really happened to that child.

It’s Been Bothering Me For Days

Thank you Twitter. Because of you, I found out on Monday morning while eating a bagel and drinking coffee before going to the gym that a man had committed suicide at my college alma mater. I didn’t even know that I followed UCF on Twitter, honestly. Probably because I had never really seen (or payed that much attention to) their tweets. But this one… it really reeled me in.

Next tweet: Tower 1 is still evacuated.

Tower 1? That was built, and opened my first year at UCF. It’s evacuated because someone committed suicide?

Next tweet: UCF classes are cancelled until noon.

Ummm…what? Classes had never been cancelled the entire four years I was there. Oh wait, I take that back. There was hurricane — what was it — Charley? No. Umm… Some hurricane I don’t even remember its name. Anyway, the point is that classes were cancelled until noon and I had NEVER heard of that happening.

It’s an interesting thing, what happens when news first breaks. We the public hear bits and pieces of information in the beginning. Officials/police/whoever are only telling so much, and therefore we are only hearing so little. These little pieces are like little pieces of bait — they attract us to it, but at the same time, it’s just not the whole thing and we don’t know what the whole thing is, yet. And humans are curious in nature, so we keep tuning in for more.

And boy, is Twitter just perfect for bait. 140 characters of bait, to be exact.

I didn’t know much. A man had committed suicide in Tower 1 was just about all I knew. And it’s sad whenever someone commits suicide, let’s be honest.

But then more bait came as the day went on. And I hear more and more of the real story. What really happened. And what really [apparently] led this man to commit suicide in his dorm. And oh my goodness, I did not like what I was hearing.

Maybe it’s because I was really upset over the Sandy Hook shooting, and I’m frankly still trying to process that one. Most of the world may have moved on already, but I know those parents are still grieving the loss of their children. And then I find out, against all odds in this world — there may have been a planned mass shooting at my former college? REALLY? 

I guess it’s not that surprising, when you think about the amount of people that go to UCF. When I first arrived at UCF in 2005, they had just under 40,000 students. That was a lot back then. Then, when I graduated four years later, there were 50,000. Now, the enrollment is 60,000. It is officially the largest university in the United States and also, just to throw this out there, the number one least rigorous university in the United States. Yay.

So when you have a college that is as big as a small Tennessee town just north of Nashville (Clarksville, to be exact) where I used to live, the chances of having a psycho within that populous are higher. 

But gosh, this whole thing has been bothering me for days.

I’m still skeptical on whether or not this person actually planned on killing anyone — because you never know with these people. Maybe he just made it look like he was going to do that so he would get national recognition for his suicide? We all know these people love the attention they get when they do this. If there was no “plan” discovered for a possible massacre, he’d just be another person that committed suicide in his room. Unfortunately there are a lot of those and yes, while they do make the news, they certainly don’t become the top story on “World News Tonight” two nights in a row.

But, no matter what, when you buy thousands of rounds of ammunition, have multiple guns, a check list ending with “good luck and give them hell” — you can’t help but think, geez, this could have been very, very bad.

Now that I have more than just little pieces of information, and I hear (what appears to be, at the moment) the whole story, I feel absolutely disgusted, and sad. But also thankful because there were things that happened that were absolutely God’s doing and seriously, THANK GOD.

My only questions, beside “Why would someone do this” which is the obvious question, would have to be: 1) what was a 30-year-old doing living on campus in a dorm? And, 2) What made him “change his mind” and not fire that gun at his roommate?

The fact of the matter is, if he had shot his roommate, there would have been much more destruction. He could have taken another life besides his own, at least, and possibly gone into the hallway and shot more (like what they think was his plan when setting off the fire alarm).

After reading more about it this week, I also feel as if he really did pick the right person NOT to shoot. As obvious and crazy as that may sound — it’s true. This roommate, from what I’ve pieced together (from reading the news and also doing some web-sleuthing of my own), was in the Air Force and is now at UCF  [probably] on the GI Bill. He has military training, he’s been in the presence of guns, and he’s been around violence before (all things that your average college, and particularly UCF, student just don’t have experience with). I’ve also found that those who enlist in the military, or are officers, or go to military academies (or just any young adult in the military in general) mature very, very quickly. This man was all of those. And he was the one that called 911. His military training, history, and background were the reason that he was calm on the 911 call. It’s the reason he hid in his bathroom and away from the door and the shared wall, where he was afraid he could possibly be fired at by this man. It’s the reason, frankly, that the police came in time to stop it.

There could not have been a better person to be in this position if you ask me. Arabo Babakhani, or “BK” as I’ve heard you go by, if you’re reading this, I can say with absolute confidence and certainty that you a hero and a excellent representation of this nation’s great military. You did everything exactly right. And you’re incredibly brave.

What made this situation even more real to me was watching the 10-minute long police video of the UCF police raiding the dorm to find James’ lifeless body on the floor. It was morbid, but it was unedited and it was real. So real. And so sad, at the same time. I feel sad for him and for his family, really, because my real question is, what could be so bad in your life that this is what you decide to do? I just don’t understand it. I can’t begin to comprehend it all — but it is so, so upsetting to me that he chose to do this to himself and to his family. (And that goes for every other shooter that is responsible for taking so many innocent lives) Just watching that video, and seeing the lower half of his body on the floor of the dorm next to a small hand gun, and a huge rifle near the door, with the blood splatter on the wall, his television still playing and the horrible florescent light on overhead, and the fire alarm still blaring — that was a terrible sight and an image I can’t get rid of. It is all so sad to me, but I also realize it could have been so much worse.

I’ll conclude this ramble by offering one piece of advice: do not watch that police video.