Ed Bedford 4 p.m., Dec. 9
On Thursday, five days ago, Chelsea King, a 17-year-old girl went missing in my community. Thousands of volunteers searched for her in the remote area where she liked to run on the winding hiking trails. Today her body was discovered in a shallow grave and a suspect, a registered child molester, was taken into custody.
By all accounts this pretty high school girl was popular, athletic, intelligent, motivated, and a talented musician who came from a loving home.
The suspect, in his 30 worthless years of life, accomplished nothing but bringing misery, pain, and ultimately death to others. Chelsea, his last victim, although very young, was already a highly respected and valuable member of society, everything he isn’t.
Her family, of course, is experiencing a devastating lifelong sadness I cannot even begin to imagine, a desperate aching that will, unfortunately, never completely heal.
On a secondary level, people who never met Chelsea are hurting too. I am one. There are many reasons why the pain is so universal, each reason relating privately to every one of us in San Diego who held out hope and then ultimately hung his head and cried.
I’m not completely sure why I am so sad over this case and why I cried, and am now at this very moment, as I type, tearing up. I suppose it relates to my being the father of a daughter who just two months ago became a 13-year-old teenager and my terrible understanding that nowhere is safe.
I am fearful—I am afraid, afraid for my daughter and afraid for all the girls who exist as potential victims for nomadic and sedentary predators.
I don’t want to be afraid anymore, and I don’t want our society’s children to be afraid either. Our prisons are full of nonviolent drug offenders serving full sentences while violent offenders are copping pleas and being given reduced sentences.
When is enough, enough? How many more children have to die until someone says, “This has to stop”? I don’t want this to remain, as it has for too long, just a rhetorical question that will soon be forgotten.
I have been closely watching the local, as well as the national, news broadcasts relating to the Chelsea King case since it first began airing. When Chelsea first went missing, thousands of people throughout the county volunteered their time to search for her and to staple up and hand out fliers that declared her disappearance, which only speaks volumes about Chelsea, her family, our city, and the volunteers themselves.
After Chelsea’s body was discovered, thousands of mourners gathered at a Poway church to participate in a candlelight procession to honor her short but meaningful life.
Chelsea’s mother, Kelly, and her father, Brent, with great sadness and with greater courage and quiet compassion, have spoken to the media. They are wonderful people. I have never met them, but their noble resolve to see justice done throughout this agonizing ordeal is nothing less than admirable.
If this had happened to my daughter, I know I would not be able to hold it together. I would either be a blubbering basket case or a single-minded revenge-seeking maniac. After what Mr. and Mrs. King have already been through and knowing what they still must endure, these two human beings have managed to maintain intrinsic grace and absolute dignity amid the eclipsing haze and shadows of utter sorrow. I have nothing but respect for them … and sometimes I feel a strange and awkward sense of guilt that I can do nothing to mend their broken hearts.
Chelsea and her mother, they look so much alike. One young, one mature. To look into one’s face was to look into the other’s; both of them created in an artist’s studio by loving hands, mirrored poetry separated only by time. It must have been comforting for Chelsea to know that as she aged, the beauty of her soul would always be matched by the beauty of her lineage. The unfairness of it all is almost tangible.
Chelsea, possessed all the tools and gifts that ensured her a successful and significant life. She was a young woman who was needed, who had so much to offer, and whose time and companionship was vastly important here on Earth. Her absence is nothing less than a travesty.
And as winds whipped up distant storms brewing on the restless sea, Chelsea went about her life doing average teenage girl things and thinking average teenage girl thoughts: I hope I ace that test tomorrow. I wonder what I should wear to prom, and, What is up with my friends, anyway? Just another day in the life of a young woman until the injustice of modern society was realized. A victim among the strewn and collapsed ruins of future dreams.
But I don’t want to believe that nothing good will arise from Chelsea’s death. Awareness, stiffer laws, longer sentences, something good must come from it. Something.
Goodbye for now, Chelsea, but not forever, true Daughter and Angel of two, and adopted daughter of many, who represents to me, and perhaps to others, the essence of what is good in life, the good that can never die: love, happiness, the moon, the sea, the timeless and returning light of the evening star, and hope.
Perhaps Chelsea, in the kingdom of eternal life, is sleeping a sleep that has no time. She sleeps on a bed inside a comfortable room within a snug little house. The house has no doors and the windows have no glass; there is nothing to fear here, only love exists. A beautiful moon suspended in a cloudless starlit night, bathes her content though restless face in the sublime radiance of immortal perfection. And perhaps the moment when the divinity of ethereal sunshine fills her room, finally awakening her (to us in the physical world, years have passed, but to the blessed not hampered by the human condition, it’s been mere minutes), she will find her mother and her father standing in the doorway with their arms outstretched, tearfully waiting to embrace the warm beauty of their Angel who was taken away so long ago.
I began writing this on 03/02/2010. I just found out a few hours ago that Amber Dubois’s remains were discovered on the Pala Reservation. Another beautiful, well loved girl with wonderful and caring parents, gone. She too had her whole future in front of her. Her life had hardly begun.
The morning she disappeared, Amber had had a $200 check with her that she was going to use to purchase a lamb for her Future Farmers of America project. When I read this, again, I was overcome with tears. The innocence she left home with on that morning and the anticipated wonder and delight of raising a lamb to maturity must have bubbled inside of her like a barely contained effervescing joy. Having it all cut short is an injury to our collective hearts.
I’m so sorry, Chelsea; I’m so sorry, Amber. If I … if we could have prevented it from happening, we would have. Maybe we can prevent it from happening again.