You never expect to open the newspaper in the morning and see someone you know. Especially not a former student. Certainly not a child. It took me a few moments to comprehend what I was looking at when I saw Tamir Rice’s smiling face in front of me. I had last seen Tamir a year and a half earlier, when I was his fourth grade math teacher.
As I slowly processed the information that he was dead and had been shot by a police officer in a neighborhood park, I felt a deep and disturbing indignation. Someone was to blame for the killing of this child—and it was not the child. I was sure that those who blamed this 12-year-old did not know him.
I remember a tall and handsome boy. Tamir looked older than his years but he was emotionally immature for his age. The thing about Tamir was that even if he gave you a hard time you still liked him. I don’t remember the tough days as much as that smile I frequently see on the news. He had a keen sense of humor and I sensed the capacity in him to achieve and even be a leader if life went his way—which it didn’t. What a waste.
Tamir was in my special-needs classroom, but, unlike most of my students, Tamir did not have a learning disability. He did well in math on the days that he chose to participate. On some days he wanted to answer every question and would become frustrated if he was not allowed to do so. He was placed in my room, in part, for the extra attention that he craved, for the attention he could not get in a larger classroom and, on certain days, could not do without.
Tamir, in his best moments, had a wonderful personality. He could be charming and funny. I believe his childhood had been a confusing one. Tamir enjoyed attention and, like some other children I have known, negative attention can sometimes be as stimulating as positive attention. So you can imagine the attention he was getting in the park that November day as he wielded an airsoft pellet gun, pointing it at passersby and other kids. The orange cap on the tip of the barrel that was supposed to indicate it was a fake was missing, so it appeared to be a real gun.
He’d been playing in the area of the recreation center gazebo when one of those passersby called 911. We later learned the caller had stated that the gunman was probably a juvenile and it was probably not a real gun. The dispatcher never relayed that part of the message to the police. We will never know if those words would have changed the deplorable outcome of that day.
What we know for sure about that day was caught on a park security camera. We saw a police vehicle drive up within feet of the boy and within two seconds he fell to the ground. There was no audio to tell us whether he had been asked repeatedly to drop the gun before he was shot (witnesses said they did not hear that). We did not see the police officer use a taser to get the child to drop the gun, or get assistance in any other way—we just saw the 12-year-old’s life end at that moment, never to use those leadership skills or engaging personality again.
Inevitably I feel compassion for the wounded, the underdogs, the young men whose lives have been taken, and for the families who will never stop grieving for them.
In personal conversations, most people I spoke with blamed the black parents for teaching their child disrespect for authority—specifically white police. How do you know that, I wondered? Why is that the assumption? Would you be saying that if it was a white child?
Tamir’s academic and emotional development was most likely affected by transience. Tamir left our care abruptly right before the end of that school year. Many children in low-income areas are constantly on the move from school to school, neighborhood to neighborhood. They lose their apartments for various reasons and move on to another dwelling or move in with a relative—often in a different school district. The work educators do with a child is often interrupted and negated at another school. The principal, Tamir’s mother, and other teachers, as well as myself, spent many heartfelt hours and much energy trying to meet Tamir’s individual needs and help him be successful in school.
A generation ago it was acceptable for children to have toy guns to play cowboys and Indians. It’s a shame that toy companies have created more realistic weapons and that so much focus is on guns in our society. Very few television shows or movies exist without guns. What else would we expect a young boy to want? It was reported later by an FBI agent who happened by that while lying on the ground wounded, Tamir asked for his gun back. Maybe we, the collective American society, are the ones to blame for constantly glorifying all types of guns and emphasizing the rights of everyone to own one.
To me, Tamir Rice is not a news item or a conversation starter. He was an unforgettable student I taught and cared for during a brief period in time. He was a kid who struggled with being moved from school to school. He was a child who needed a significant amount of attention. Like many inner city children, Tamir had probably seen and experienced more than his 12-year-old brain could process. On November 22, 2014, he was simply an innocent soul who just wanted to have a good time as most children do.
What I imagine from knowing Tamir was that he was having great fun that day. He was a child pretending he had a real gun. He was a young boy who was getting the attention he craved. And he will never know the attention he received after that fateful day.
I am a retired special education teacher, poet, novelist, first soprano, occasional painter and guitar player living in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. My two adult children continue to bring joy and laughter to my life, and now I am a grandmother as well! I am blessed with a smart, generous, loving husband and a constant canine companion, Stella. I love God. Talking to Him saves me from myself everyday. I also maintain a blog called COEXIST because I believe He loves us all and simply expects us to love each other while we're here on Earth.
If God gives you something to do, why in the world wouldn't you do it? Stephen King
Proud to be an American today
There is hope everywhere. Today God gives the milk and I have the pail. Anne Sexton
Think About It
"Coexistence - or no existence." Piet Hein, poet and scientist 1905-1996
I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give it to myself. I circle around God, around the primordial tower. I've been circling for thousands of years and I still don't know: am I falcon, a storm, or a great song?
Rainer Maria Rilke
Check out this wonderful movement. It's about time.
"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you too can become great." Mark Twain
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Stella on squirrel patrol
She will station herself at one of several spots in the backyard just waiting for something to chase.
Sometimes writing well is like wetting your pants in a black dress. It gives you a warm feeling, but nobody notices.
LISTEN and SILENT are made from the same letters.
Blog Archive - click on drop down menu to view titles
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. Mohandas Gandhi
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin
Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself. George Bernard Shaw
What good will it be if a woman gains the whole world, and loses her soul? Matthew 16:26
Seek your passion - then do it.
Poetry is, above all, a singing art of natural and magical connection because, though it is born out of one person's solitude, it has the ability to reach out and touch in a humane and warmly illuminating way the solitude, even the loneliness, of others. That is why, to me, poetry is one of the most vital treasures that humanity possesses; it is a bridge between separated souls." Brendan Kennelly
VisitPen Me a Poemfor an online interview with me from July 17, 2008.
An artist brings something into the world that didn't exist before, and he does it without destroying something else. John Updike (1932-2009)
I believe that all creative expression springs simply from the desire to be known.
I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. Abraham Lincoln
We write to taste life twice; in the moment and in retrospection. Anais Nin
I painted this vulnerable pose just because I thought it was beautiful.
When morning gilds the skies...
November sunrise in my back yard.
Want to know more about Cleveland? I know you do!
Click on this photo
It's a sad waste of energy to defend oneself in the shadow of the mercy seat - forgiveness being part of the unfathomable mystery of God. Amy Grant
Artwork by B. Matthews Platt
"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." Pablo Picasso
This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed non-conformists. The saving of our world from pending doom will not come from the actions of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a dedicated minority. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
My church - September 2008
Come, Listen, Love
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E.B. White
Poets are soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition. Eli Khamarov
Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning. All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions.
The soul is healed by being with children. Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself. Anais Nin
It looks like she's tried my cooking.
This was the view from our restaurant as we celebrated our anniversary.
Central Park - NYC June 2008
"I know that I can write, a couple of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humorous, there's a lot in my diary that speaks, but - whether I have any real talent remains to be seen." Anne Frank April 5, 1944
Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.
Flying Over Midnight
God Bless America
Now blooming. . .
We are fortunate to have an acre of land. But the first spring we lived here this was the ONLY thing blooming in the yard!
I don't remember getting to do stuff like this in elementary school for being "good".
A view of our neighbor's yard from our deck. Thank you !
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest fight any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.e.e.cummings
The west bank of the Cuyahoga River
Sunrise over the Western Hemisphere
Coexisting - even animals can do it!
Poetry would be dull indeed if we limited ourselves to the things we think we already comprehend. Robert Frost
Everyone who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. Gertrude Stein
When you are talking about art, you are talking about God indirectly; all experience of art is an indirect experience of God. Sister Wendy Beckett
Easter Saturday in Ohio- we will still sing Hallelujah!
It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent. Vincent Van Gogh
Ernest Hemingway's writing place
While in Key West for a day I got a big thrill by visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway and seeing where he wrote his novels at this little table above a garage. How cool is that? My husband said "eh" and shrugged his shoulders. I thought it was extremely cool. No word processor.
INSANITY - doing the same thing over and over each time expecting a different reality.
If you are a dreamer, come in, If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer. . . If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!
Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be. Fanny Brice
Picnic tables in hibernation
These are a few of my favorite things.
My Stella in the snow
M & M's
Last summer the first place we visited in New York was the M&M's store!! Three floors of heaven right in Times Square! This is just a sampling of the colors you can get!
I Love New York
Winter in Ohio
Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg
Wolfie and Me
Second Thoughts by - Bruce Holwerda
A view of my neighbor's lovely yard
And the neighbors are lovely too.
A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song - Maya Angelou. I think the caged bird sings because it still has wings.
Adorable neighbor children
I promised myself I would not put cutesy pictures on my blog - but this one's too good. It reminds me of summer too. (For those who think my love of snow is weird.)
Bridge to a Millennium
This is my only published piece of art and one of the very few completely original ideas I've ever come up with. It was for the cover of a CD.
Where's my bone?
A Red-Tailed Hawk
My Mother's Art 10-03-07
A painting by my mother, Martha Vogel, of my children and me.
Born to the Purple 9-23-07
This is not me. It's a painting by my uncle, Glen Heberling. It's a purple person.It reminds me that it's OK to be purple.It is entitled "Born to the Purple".
I Love Flip-Flops
and I refuse to stop wearing them even though it's December.
Let it Be 10-31-07
A mural of the Beatles that I painted on my basement wall.