George was killed the other day. Ambushed in his front yard, standing next to the woman he loved and the boy whom he called his own. One shot to the heart. This took place not in Iraq or a tough ghetto in Detroit or even in West Palm Beach. This murder took place in Palm Beach Gardens in a quiet suburban neighborhood made up of retirees and successful young families. In this neighborhood residents smile and wave as you pass by and signal you to slow down if you are driving too fast. It is a safe community where even if we don’t know everyone by name we know them by their smiles.
I knew George by his smile and his willingness to help his neighbors. He had worked on our house many times fixing up something here and there, always with a fair price always with a funny story or comment. I can’t believe that he’s gone. The only thing that shined brighter than his smile and his laughter was the generous heart. The other day a murderer destroyed all that and left us with a void that is filled with sorrow, fear and anger and the mystifying question, why?
The sorrow is that a good man so happy and kind could be taken from us in such a vicious and callous manner. It is the sorrow that we share with his father and mother who are also our neighbors and who described him not as a son but as their best friend. It is the sorrow that we share with his fiancée who after they had found each other put in the past a difficult life and were settling into a family life of their own. It is the sorrow of his friends and neighbors who will miss the man they knew as happy, helpful and full of energy and love of life. This was the man who stepped up and confronted two burglars breaking into his neighbor’s house. He was in fact a hero and he was to testify against the two criminals at a trial the following day. But instead, a bullet ripped through his big heart and dropped him like some game trophy.
It’s the fear that is unbearable however. The quiet neighborhood that believed that they were separated from that violent world of the gangsta had just become another victim. There are no smiles, no waves of greeting, nor motions to slow down. They have been replaced by fear. The older folks who thought they were safe are inside. The children playing on the street don’t walk on their own anymore. They are inside hiding, hiding from the fear. The murderers are no different than the terrorists who destroy and disrupt our lives. Their results are the same, creating an unbearable fear that we are not safe that we are vulnerable.
When writing this letter my own wife told me not to go out for fear of retaliation but that is no way to live and as each day passes my anger grows. The anger grows out of the disgust of a criminal system that leaves witnesses so vulnerable. The anger grows from a culture that promotes violence and degradation of good woman and men as if it is some badge of honor. The anger grows out of the numerous and senseless deaths of good people, innocent people, children, fathers, mothers, all who have been ripped apart in the crosshairs and crossfire of violent criminals. They are at war and we are not fighting back. They are moving to control our communities and we sit and cower behind locked doors and gates. We buried George last night and today I am angry.