Today, I checked our APO box on base. I found a lovely card from my aunt, a postcard from our wireless carrier, and a… subpoena? My heart was pounding as I opened the envelope and found out I was to be on standby for a subpoena in Broward County, Florida, between the dates of June 6 and June 17 for a trial for the charge of second-degree murder. As soon as I saw the name on the case, all the feelings rushed back. All the feelings I had pushed down five years ago. That experience had been compartmentalized and repressed and stowed away in a neat little place where it couldn’t bother me or touch me in my current happy life as a wife and mama. It’s one thing to bring trauma up of your volition in a therapeutic setting; it’s quite another to read a legal document that metaphorically kicks you in the gut and leaves you gasping for air on the ground, curled in the fetal position.
I am definitely not the first person in the world to witness another person’s life being taken from them. As the wife of an active-duty US military service member, I cannot imagine the horrors witnessed by our Soldiers, Airmen, Seamen, and Marines deployed to combat zones. But this was still something impossible for me, personally, to process.
Because of this glitch in my emotional processing ability, when this shit went down five years ago, I just kind of tucked it away. Five hours after the incident, I was clocking in for a Sunday morning shift at a bar on the intracoastal. I was super-tired and more than a bit hungover, but I worked my shift. Over the next few days, I saw the crime scene investigation trucks parked outside the bar where it happened, since I lived across the street. It made me feel panicky for some unexplicable reason. I was relieved once the tape was removed, and the cop cars left. The bar opened for business as usual. Everyone in our neighborhood was talking about it, and I had many friends that shared my same experience that early morning. Some of those friends were even hospitalized for injuries because of their heroic efforts. But I didn’t want to talk. Inquisitive customers would ask me about it while I was behind the bar at work, one block over from where it happened, and I would get pissed off and snap at them. I had no patience for chit-chat with people who I felt wanted to sensationalize and gossip about what was the loss of a life: sacred, sad, and far too soon.
Time heals all wounds, and certainly served all of us involved just as well as the adage promises. Life went on as before. As always, out of sight, out of mind; we all moved on. Unfortunately, this is the most common emotional survival technique in the bar scene in South Florida, because otherwise, there would be no coping with such rampant loss.
Back to present day, in which opening the subpoena was an emotional tasering. It jolted me out of my protected, happy little life 10,000 miles away from that bar and slingshotted me psychologically back in time, five years. Ultimately, I am glad Brian Krebs is finally being held responsible for his crime in court. I hope he is given the harshest sentence possible for this charge. I just know that my re-living this in my head today is just a minuscule fraction of the pain felt by Jimmy Pagano’s loved ones on a daily basis since he was killed; there is no way for them to so easily banish those feelings to an emotionally remote location as I did.
I am incredibly proud of myself for this blog post. It was not written without tears, but in writing about it, I do feel as though even if I didn’t completely open this specific box, maybe I was able to peel back the wrapping just a bit.
*In Memory of*
James Pagano and his Music ✌🏻️ and his Life ☮ – RIP, April 17, 2011.