On a September morning about three weeks into third grade, I was wondering why my mother had not come up to help me finish dressing for school. I called to her, but no answer. Her room was on the second floor of our row house, and my younger brother (6) and I went to see what could be keeping her. I found her and our father dead in their bed; although at the time, when I listened for her heartbeat, my own was beating so loudly that I believed it to be hers. My brother went to Daddy’s side of the bed and said “there is a gun over here.” I could not or would not believe him and then remembered the instructions our mother had given me, since I was the eldest. “If anything happens to me, you are to go next door and tell the neighbor to come and help you.” She must have already been afraid that something would happen.
When the note was found, it was clear that the original intention had been to kill the five of us children also. On that day and because of that gun we lost our parents and our siblings. We were all less than two years apart, and we had been a very close family. We lived with our grandfather. My grandfather lost his only child and all of us on the same day because of that gun.
There is a much larger story, with many sidelines, and each of us have had different paths and been affected in so many ways because of that gun. The five of us were reunited in 1981, after 28 years, but my grandfather did not live to see that day. And so, because of that gun, he died without ever seeing two of his five grandchildren.