Saturday, February 28, 2009
I have a lot of anger going on in my life and certainly do not want to incite more.
A lot of positive things have happened this past week.
I'm going to concentrate on those.
In today's Sun Herald
Published on: Saturday, February 28, 2009
Nathan Lee welcomed with open arms at California convention
NORTH PORT -- Earlier this week, Nathan Lee, his father Mark, North Port businessman Dave Dignam, and City Commissioner David Garofalo -- all members of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation -- flew to California to attend the annual California National Emergency Number Association conference, where Nathan was the keynote speaker.
Although Nathan has spent a lot of time speaking to the media and other groups since his wife Denise's murder, he admitted to being "a little nervous" about speaking about the foundation's efforts to improve the 911 system in front of more than 600 people, but said, "It went really well."
"Before I even started speaking, and after I gave a 10-minute video presentation with the headlines and stories, I basically got a five-minute standing ovation," he said, adding his 45-minute speech was very emotional. "And I got another huge ovation afterward. Everyone is extremely happy that we're trying to change the industry."
The story of 21-year-old Denise's kidnapping and murder made national headlines last year. Jane Kowalski, of Tampa, called Charlotte County dispatchers on the night Denise was kidnapped in January 2008. She spent nine minutes on the phone with the 911 operator, describing what she was seeing -- someone banging on the window and screaming -- in the car behind her, reportedly driven by suspect Michael King, 37. But police searching for Denise never received the information, because the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office did not relay it.
Denise's body was found two days later off Toledo Blade Boulevard, and King was charged with kidnapping, rape and capital murder. His trial is scheduled for August.
Nathan said he met "everyone" at the conference.
"They just can't believe that I'm doing this, and expect I should be mad at the industry, because most people would be bashing it," he said. "I just told them that doesn't accomplish anything, and Denise would not want me to do that. I've been given the opportunity to change things -- how can I not try?"
By the end of the conference, Nathan said just about everyone was wearing a Remember Denise Amber Lee bracelet or pin.
"The people at the conference ... basically the dispatch community of California, everybody basically donated $5,000 to the foundation. They started to raise the money when they found out that we were nonprofit," he said. "The most unbelievable thing to me is seeing that Denise has been able to make a difference already."
Garofalo, a fire captain in Pasco County, called the trip "absolutely moving."
"For them to embrace the cause as much as they did ... Their standards are probably the highest in the country," he said, "but they look at it as they can always do better. I think there's probably a lot of that in Florida. We've been exposed for the bad, but there's a lot of good people in Florida, and I think we're all going to move forward with this."
Nathan also has been invited to speak at several other venues, including the California State Assembly.
"I believe I'll be attending the national (NENA) conference in Fort Worth, Texas, and 911 Goes to Washington, D.C., in March for a two- to three-day event to talk to legislators. I've been invited ... I'm not sure if I can go, but I want to," he said, calling the invitations a great honor. "It's amazing. Other than marrying Denise and seeing my two children born, this is probably the fourth best thing that's ever happened to me."
For more information about the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, visit deniseamberlee.org.
By ANNE KLOCKENKEMPER
My favorite quote in the article from Nathan "It's amazing. Other than marrying Denise and seeing my two children born, this is probably the fourth best thing that's ever happened to me."
Since their return we have received many emails which, of course I am going to leave private. All express gratitude towards our guys! And it's we who should be expressing gratitude towards them! The people involved in 9-1-1 out in CA were so wonderful. The national representatives were wonderful. They just don't know what a boost of energy this has given us.
God bless them.
This comment was posted on the Denise Amber Lee website http://www.deniseamberlee.org/ :
John P. Says
2/26/2009 I would like to commend you for the work you are doing. It must be very hard for you and your family to relive this tragedy over again. However, you have turned it around and made it something that will hopefully open the eyes of a lot of personnel within our Government and Law Enforcement Community. I personally had a chance to meet you and David at the CAL NENA 2009 Conference in San Diego CA. Your presentation really hit home. I am a Supervisor within a 9-1-1 Communications Center and will personally challenge my Dispatchers to do everything possible with their training and technology/equipment available to them, to make sure this does not happen. Thank you for the opportunity to hear of this tragic incident and can only hope and pray that your message of hope can only save more lives. Thank you again!
Friday, February 27, 2009
FOUNDING PRESIDENT NATHAN LEE DELIVERS KEY NOTE ADDRESS TO CALIFORNIAS ANNUAL 9-1-1 CONFERENCE
San Diego- After a 5 minute standing ovation from the nation's largest chapter of The National Emergency Number Association (NENA), Nathan Lee came through on his promise to not let his wife's death be in vain by delivering a 45 minute speech that left not a dry eye at the San Diego Conference.
"It was an honor to speak in front of a group of such dedicated public servants who perform one of the most noblest professions in saving lives" Lee said.
The 4 day conference attracted experts worldwide in the 911 EmergencyCommunication Industry.
Mr Lee was invited to speak to the California's State Assembly to raise awareness on the importance of 911 training, funding and uniformed standards.
"The fact that Denise's story is able to make a positive impact on such a large scale and so very far away is inspiring to many in the profession and we are beginning to see her death was not in vain" Lee continued.
Geoff Weiss who is the Training Supervisor for the Communications Division of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department was the one behind the scenes and responsible for getting Nathan Lee to California, he had reached out toNathan early on in his ordeal and said that he had hoped he could help in any way that he could, "I am proud of the way California regulates dispatch and even more proud of how the members of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation were not only here for a key note speech but embedded themselves in every aspect of this 4 day conference, they really showed that they have a passion for fixing 911, I was incredibly impressed by the way they were so involved" Weiss stated.
Nathan was accompanied by other Directors from the Foundation including his father Mark Lee, Businessman Dave Dignam and North Port City Commissioner David Garofalo.
The group was able to make many contacts and are very certain that this is "Now" a national issue and will be traveling to Washington, Texas and Nevada for future national events in which the foundation was invited to participate.
I'm so proud and grateful to all who had something to do with sending Nathan and Mark to San Diego. It was so very healthy and good for them both. Emotionally, I know, they both needed it.
Dave Dignam and David Garofalo deserve our unwavering and undying gratitude. They took time away from their jobs and more especially, away from their families to be there to support Nathan. Their presence made all the difference. Yes, Mark wrote a fantastic speech that touched all the necessary points and, yes, Nathan delivered it with truly heartfelt compassion. But both the Daves networking abilities and their support made all the difference in making the entire 4-day trip a success and not just the speech. God bless you and thank you for that.
For the first time in over a year, I feel hope. I see light. I see that Denise has not died in vain. This journey is a journey of hope for so many, many peoples. And we WILL and CAN succeed in making a difference.
Angels in blue take heart! These men did a fantastic job! The hard work is paying off.
And to all the dedicated, compassionate and diligent dispatchers and call takers across the country and around the world, thank you for doing the jobs you do. And for most of you, thank you, for recognizing we are only wanting to help.
God bless California for inviting us. I can't tell you what it's meant to my family in our grieving process. Denise would be so honored and so proud.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
But it's been nice having the house to myself and getting so much done without interruptions. I've packed up both guest bedrooms, so they're pretty much done along with the dining room, my music books and I've gone through tons of old pictures. I threw many out. I mean, how many photographs of sunsets do we need? And mountains? Gee, we have tons of mountain photos. So, I threw a lot away. I'll probably regret it but I'm tired of going through them every time we move. I kept all the people pictures and IMO they are what's important. At least for me that is. I also came across a couple more pictures of Denise. That's ALWAYS a nice surprise. Gosh, I miss her.
Okay, back off of that topic or I'll start crying.
The other task at hand, as I posted a couple days ago, was going through all the newspapers and clipping the articles. That stirred up many many emotions and I guess it was best for the guys not to be here for that. Actually, I'm surprised at how well I've gotten through it.
The odd thing is the articles started on January 18, 2008. I've been clipping every night. I was hoping to finish tonight and decided if I wasn't done by 9PM I'd stop anyway. I don't want to get burned out and want to be somewhat human when Mark does get home however late that will be.
I've been placing each article in it's own plastic sleeve along with notes. At pretty much exactly 9PM I ran out of plastic sleeves. And! I had just enough sleeves to end on January 18, 2009. So, it's exactly one year of newspaper articles in the binder. I thought that was pretty cool.
Some of the emotions I experienced going through the articles:
Sadness I guess being the prominent one. Simply sadness. After a year the numbness has worn off and I've come to terms with the fact that she's not coming back and that life will go on and actually needs to go on. We'll survive without her. It's just terribly sad. I think depression is different than sadness. Depression is almost like a place and is a sort of funk people like myself get into and have a hard time crawling out of. Sadness is not a place it's a reality.
Anger probably came in second. Seeing that man's face taking up the same ink and print as Denise and on the same page. It's particularly hurtful when the papers print the pictures side by side. So, there you see sweet, innocent Denise right next to that awful picture of Michael King. One thing I do like about the papers is they always print that same picture of Michael King and it's just the worst picture imaginable of a person. I'm glad they use that picture of him. Some of the pictures of Nate bother me. There's one that the Sun Herald uses that looks like a mug shot. It drives me crazy! They have plenty of pictures of Nate that are better than that. And Nathan's not a villian, he's a good guy doing what he thinks is right. But the worst is when I see Denise and King side by side. It makes my skin crawl.
Peace was another feeling I experienced and you wouldn't expect that. But, because the guys weren't here it was as if I was spending my evenings alone with Denise. Just Denise and I. She was so quiet. I felt that I was doing something for her. I believe someday the boys may want those articles. It's different feeling having a newspaper in your hand and reading an article on line. Just as it's a different feeling actually looking a word up in the dictionary as opposed to looking it up on line. Or looking up something in an encyclopedia as opposed to Wiki. Who knows? Maybe they'll never want them. I don't know. But they are there for them.
I was upset a few times oddly not so much at the 9-1-1. Maybe that's because I feel we're able to do something about that. I no longer feel frustrated. I feel as if things are happening on that front. Slower than I'd like! but things are moving. I was more upset over the politics played last year. I came across the article talking about Nathan trying to see the governor. I would think the governor would want to see him. I honestly believe Governor Charlie Crist is going to have regrets about not seeing Nathan. But we'll see. I came across many of the letters to the editors and the interviews with the candidates for sheriff. It's extremely upsetting and disappointing that Cameron was elected. Everyone said it was a done deal. I guess it was. The good ole boys won again.
Cameron and Davenport IMO put their egos, power, money and politics before public safety. Bill Cameron actually spent over $100,000 in signs!!!! People like us are losing their houses and he's buying $100,000 in signs!!!! But I'm past ranting about it. Ugh!
Here's an example of what I came across. Thank goodness someone responded.
Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL)
April 24, 2008
Column: Sheriff John Davenport
Over my 30 years of working for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office I have tried to accept the fact that the media report stories the way they wish to report them whether the facts are accurate or not. I think we can all agree that the media is a powerful force who is able to shape public opinion; for most people truly believe everything they read or see in the news.
The inaccuracies have never been more evident than in the infamous "E-911 Call incident." Literally from the first story released on this call, the media has misquoted, misinformed and misled the public dealing with this entire incident.
As sheriff I am expected to be accountable for my employees' actions, and I accept that responsibility. But to paint a picture of incompetence over the entire Sheriff's Office, particularly the employees of our 911 Center is irresponsible on the part of the media and anyone else who has done so.
On the evening of this tragic event the men and women of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office went above and beyond the call of duty to try and find Denise. Remember, she is the daughter of one of our own. All available resources responded to help and everyone worked tirelessly to find this young lady and to capture the man who abducted her. The men and women working the 911 call center that evening were also working in overdrive to do everything they could to try and find Denise. Frankly, in their busy efforts to do as much as they could they made a mistake, something each of us has done on more than one occasion in our lives.
One thing I have come to realize in my thirty year career is that people don't often think of law enforcement professionals as simply being human just like anyone else. We are supposed to be perfect at all times no matter how stressful the situation and we are not permitted to make mistakes. It is very easy to Monday morning quarterback any incident when you have all the time in the world to do so, but many times when an incident is unfolding you don't have that kind of time and must make decisions immediately under very stressful conditions, and sometimes those decisions are not perfect. Sometimes the situation is hectic and confusing and mistakes can easily be made under the worst of conditions. We work in what is often a life and death business and mistakes can have consequences similar to that of a doctor making a mistake in surgery, or a soldier making a mistake in combat.
I am astounded that more emphasis has been placed on the mistake of two dispatchers than on the alleged murderer himself. One would think, based on media representation that we should be throwing the dispatchers in a cell next to Mr. King. Little has been reported of the outstanding police work that was done in this case. It was a monumental effort by so many people and so many agencies that led to this suspect being captured within six hours of the reported missing of Denise Lee, but little is said about that.
In spite of what the media has portrayed, the two dispatchers who made this mistake are good people and good dispatchers who have dedicated many years of service to our citizens. They, more than anyone else, feel terrible about the entire situation, but they are human, and because they are human they feel the hurt, the nastiness, the threats, and all the hate that has been thrown towards them. They do not deserve it and I blame the media more than anyone else for painting them in such a negative light from the beginning when all they have ever tried to do is help people, and have done so many more times than not.
This incident has not only devastated the Lee and Goff families but it has also devastated the Sheriff's Office family who grieves with them. These two dispatchers made a mistake, they admitted their mistake, they brought it forward and they apologized for it. They didn't make the mistake intentionally or maliciously. They have been disciplined and I assure you they will never make that same mistake again.
The media has shaped the public's negative opinion about this call from the beginning, and they have done so with inaccuracies, but the damage is done. I don't expect anyone to change their opinion, but I feel obligated to at least try and make our citizens understand the human side of all of this. I want to thank our citizens for their continued support.
Copyright (c) 2008, Charlotte Sun
Below was just one of the responses in the editorial section, written by a Sue Humphreys in Rotonda West on May 2, 2008. Imagine what she could've written if she knew all the other things that went wrong.
When will the sheriff just apologize?
Our sheriff defends the "mistakes" made in the search for Denise Lee by comparing them to the mistakes of surgeons and combat soldiers? Are you kidding? Irresponsible surgeons generally lost their license. Irresponsible combat soldiers generally end up dead. In either case, their "mistakes" typically result in the loss of their own occupation or life.
How does this compare to those whose mistakes, even if on a solitary occasion, aided Denise Lee's murderer? Most of us comprehend that dispatching emergency calls is a stressful, hectic, mostly thankless job. But like a surgeon, solder, firefighter or EMT, you are absolutely held to a higher standard in your occupation. If that causes emotional distress may I suggest a different line of work?
Even without the sheriff's editorial lecture, we understand that mistakes happen and that the dispatchers involved are human, good, and are subject to failures, as are we all. But extra training and a brief suspension for failing to dispatch critical information to their colleagues (they are dispatchers after all) is truly unconscionable.
Yes sir, we know that Denise was the daughter of one of your own and as such we expect your office to "above and beyond the call of duty" (whatever that means). When life-and-death mistakes occur, we also expect you to readily addres them, fire or reassign those responsible, fix internal issues, and apologize to those your office failed.
Instead, you elect to chastise the media and public because your employees "feel terrible."
Are you kidding?
Sue Humphreys (Rotonda West)
So, in going through the articles I went through a variety of emotions. But I made it. And as I said, the most prominent emotion that blasted them all out of the water was sadness.
I still don't understand why Denise was taken from us. Why?
I still don't understand how so many things could go wrong in a 9-1-1 center. How? I mean I don't get it. One thing, two things... maybe. But the mistakes seemed to snowball on them. ugh!
I guess I'll never understand. I'll never get over it.
I really do need the boys home. And I need to put the binder away.
Miss you, Denise. You're beautiful in every picture. And, sweetheart, you're saving lives as I type.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
BTW Mark wrote the speech.
Here's it is:
CalNENA Speech 2009
Good morning everyone.
I want to first say how honored I am to be asked to speak to this group of dedicated public servants.
In my eyes, you truly are the first line of defense for our Homeland Security.
What I would like to talk about today is to first tell you about the Denise Amber Lee Foundation that I started in honor and memory of my wonderful wife and second;
I would like to challenge your thinking on a different way to bring about changes and improvements to your industry.
There are 4 of us from the foundation here this week for the conference.
We hope to target several gatherings like this, this year to learn as much as we can.
We are not experts by any stretch of the imagination.
But we are energized and intensely motivated to do whatever we can to prevent any other family from experiencing the pain and heartbreak that we have suffered.
The famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead, once said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
So we are here this week to talk to as many of you as possible, to take in the trade show and listen to how you feel we should best be focusing our efforts to make a difference.
As you saw in the introductory video, many opportunities were lost that day to save Denise.
It is not my intent to vilify an industry and a system that failed her that day.
Make no mistake about it; it was a monster named Michael King who murdered my wife.
But when you look closely at the procedural breakdowns and miscommunication of vital information that occurred in that one 9-1-1 Call Center in Florida that night, you can’t help but be outraged.
There is no doubt in my mind that Denise would be alive today if vital information wasn’t grossly mishandled that evening!
And, indeed, over the ensuing months after Denise’s death, we heard from thousands of people from around the world who were outraged.
Many of the most memorable letters and emails that we received were surprising to us, from people in this industry.
We could feel the genuine compassion in those letters for our tragic loss.
We received this touching email from Geoff Weiss, training supervisor for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.
He wrote....... “Last Thursday I taught my first class since last being in email contact with you.
Although the class was about an unrelated dispatch topic, as promised I took about 30 minutes of it to discuss the story of Denise.
I played the opening Dateline NBC 9 minute piece prior to going on our first break.
Later in the day, I finally played the conclusion..... Nate.... after the video finished I turned around to address my class of 31 dispatchers throughout the state of California and was struck by a chill of emotion as I saw half of them were in tears.
I walked back up to the front of the room, swallowed back the lump in my throat and said, “Remember why you took this job.
Remember what a critical role you play every day in public safety.”
Captain Josh Mindick Special Services Commander of the Boca Raton Florida Police Department wrote this......
“Mr. Lee, as a law enforcement professional, Commander of a 9-1-1 center, father, and husband, I watched Dateline NBC in a stoic silence.
I ordered every Telecommunicator, Police Officer and Firefighter who works in our 9-1-1 center to attend a training block on this tragedy.
It will be watched from Day 1 for new hires so that they will understand the tremendous responsibility that comes with the career they are about to undertake.
During our first session, every one of them was in tears at one point or another during the video.
It is important for my people to hear what the families had to say.
They need to realize the impact that they can make on the outcome of a call for service.”
And he finished with........ “I think they got it!”
Since Denise was the daughter of a detective of the sheriff’s office, a trust fund was set up for the community to donate to our family.
The outpouring from the community was overwhelming. College funds were set up for my two sons, Adam and Noah.
An anonymous donor picked up the tab for the entire funeral.
I knew at this point that I had to do something to give back to the community.
So on June 8th last year, I formed the Denise Amber Lee Foundation.
I wanted to raise funds so that I could help families who experienced similar tragedies but didn’t have the enormous backing of the community like I had enjoyed.
I wanted to set-up trust funds for these families, maybe pay for funerals or help with their debts.
I’m sure many of you are aware of Kevin Willett's group at 911cares.com that provides comfort and support to members of the 9-1-1 community experiencing tragedy.
I think that is an absolutely wonderful idea.
That is what I want to provide for families experiencing tragedies from the shortcomings and inefficiencies of the 9-1-1 system.
The Denise Amber Lee Foundation also is chartered to raise public awareness of 9-1-1 issues and to promote solutions.
I started the foundation with $15,000 of money donated to our family and we are now aggressively seeking donations and sponsorships to carry out our mission.
The largest community foundation in Florida soon partnered with us in our cause. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice brings their considerable resources and influences to our disposal. In this past legislative session of the Florida legislature, Denise’s father, Detective Rick Goff and myself were called to Tallahassee to support pending legislation for a first ever training standard for 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers.
Unfortunately, it was an unfunded and voluntary bill, although a great first step.
(Insert Nathan’s account of the event.)
Several legislators are ready to sponsor legislation in the coming session of the Florida legislature to make this training mandatory......
This is what keeps me going.....
This is my motivation....
Helen Keller was once quoted as saying....
“Many persons have a wrong idea of true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
Most of you are familiar with the tragic circumstances of TV’s Americas Most Wanted host, John Walsh.
His 6 year old son Adam was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Florida in 1981.
In his book “Tears of Rage,” Mr. Walsh writes;
“People who haven’t been hit by crime can still enjoy what my wife and I call ‘the luxury of being naïve.’
They go around thinking that it could never happen to them. I envy those people; I truly do.
They don’t know any better.
They don’t understand that, once it happens to you, everything changes, every tiny aspect of your life.
And even though you may look the same on the outside and maybe acting the same way; on the inside you’re coming from a totally different place.”
He continues “To us, even back in the early days, our most basic understanding was always unspoken: Adam cannot have died in vain.
If we had not gone on to do what we eventually did, we would have remained as we were: two grief stricken hand wringing parents who other people looked at and felt sorry for.
But we both came to believe that if you are given the opportunity to change things, then how can you at least not try?”
It has only been 9 months since we started the Denise Amber Lee Foundation but we have had our successes.
Everyone has heard the saying “Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.”
That saying means when you are involved with all of the small details, it’s hard to see the larger picture.
I feel that is one of our advantages. We don't know the details.
Our concept of 9-1-1, and I think shared by most of the general public, is that you dial 9-1-1 and help arrives fast.
In our pursuit of seeing how we can make a difference, we have taken a more in depth look at how the industry works.
From our perspective of being on the outside looking in, it is crystal clear that the 9-1-1 system is a complicated, complex array of hardware, software, telecommunication networks, personnel and procedures that must all operate flawlessly for the system to work......
It is absolutely amazing to me that the system doesn’t fail more often.
The Denise Amber Lee Foundation has initially identified five areas that we would like to focus on;
Number 1 is training.
We feel that mandatory, standardized training is a must.
The best technology in the world is useless if call takers and dispatchers aren’t trained properly on its use.
Many of you who saw the Dateline and Primetime episodes on Denise’s case know that those shows focused on the mishandled 9-1-1 call from a citizen hero, Jane Kowalski.
Believe me, if you study the Internal Affairs Investigation of that night you will see many other mistakes from lack of training and improper procedures.
It is not my intent to speak on those errors today but if anyone is interested in those details, please see one of us this week and we will be happy to disclose those to you.
From the many emails we have received, mandatory training appears to be a goal of many of you in the industry as well.
The second area of focus for our foundation is appropriate compensation for call takers and dispatchers.
We have discovered that some jurisdictions in this country have starting salaries as low as $10.50/hour for call takers.... ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
(here Nathan ad libs and talks about working at Best Buy selling televisions. He points out how much he makes, which is substantially more than call takers and dispatchers in certain areas. He makes a point that he doesn't save lives.)
In emergency services it is hard to say that one link in the chain is more important than another.
Everyone agrees that the call takers job is stressful and at times heart wrenching as they try and console a hysterical caller.
Everyone agrees that if this initial contact with the caller in need of assistance isn’t handled appropriately, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the chain is, it is going to fail and a tragedy could be the result. If not for the trained and efficient call takers and dispatchers; police would not be able to prevent the rape and murder of a young mother; fire fighters would not be able to recue a child from a burning building and EMTs would not be able reach an accident victim in time to provide life saving first aid.
In an industry where employee retention is an issue, how can we attract dedicated, compassionate, and career minded workers; ask them to endure the stress and undergo the hours and hours of training necessary to perform their duties efficiently for $10.50/hour?
The public has to be made aware of this... and it has to change.
The third area that our foundation would like to address is increased funding for the tremendous financial challenge of bringing Next Generation Technologies and procedures on line.
In my home state of Florida, we pay a mere 50 cents per month, per phone line for 9-1-1 services.
I am confident that if the general public was aware of all the issues we are addressing today, they would willingly pay more.
Our fourth area of concern is quality assurance.
I know that many of your agencies have quality assurance procedures in place.
But we have heard from many industry people from around the country that analysis of how calls are handled and dispatched only occur after a tragic outcome.
There needs to be an ongoing, automatic random review of calls.
It would be a valuable opportunity for continuing education and training to correct errors before they result in a tragedy.
Our fifth area of focus is cell phone location.
It is hard to say that this area of focus may be the most important as all of these items have tremendous life saving potential.
But clearly the ability to know exact location of the mobile phone making the call to 9-1-1 for help would potentially save thousands of lives annually.
This is an issue that is baffling to us and most of the general public.
This is an issue that frustrates most of the people in this room.
We, as outsiders to the industry have very basic knowledge of Enhanced 9-1-1 and basic knowledge of locating a phone caller through triangulation calculations.
This seems to be time consuming, labor intensive, and obsolete information if, as in my wife's case, an abduction is happening in a moving vehicle.
Do the calculations have to be continually revised? My wife, Denise, was somehow able to make a 911 call during her abduction using her killers cell phone. She was able to keep the line open for 7 minutes before he realized what she had done. I know Denise thought that if she could keep the line open, the police would be able to trace her location and save her.
I have a little Garmin GPS screen on my dashboard that I can activate and watch my car on a detailed map, travel down the highway.
It seems to be incredibly accurate down to a few feet and displays all of the names of the approaching streets.
In my area of Southwest Florida, I live on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
I can hop in my friend's fishing boat for a day of grouper fishing, plug in a few GPS coordinates and head out into this vast marine wilderness of some 615,000 sq miles and find a pre-programmed reef site of maybe 30 feet across, 30 miles off the coast, where we can catch grouper all day.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
WE CAN'T FIND A CELL PHONE WHEN SOMEONE DIALS 9-1-1?
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
The members of our foundation who are here this week need your thoughts and opinions on this issue.
I can’t think of any greater opportunity to save lives than to be able to locate a person in distress that uses their cell phone to dial 9-1-1.
Tell us where the difficulties lie. Help us understand the challenges of this critical issue from your perspective.
I mentioned in the beginning that I would like to challenge your thinking on a different way to bring improvements and changes to the 9-1-1 system.
Once again, it appears to this outsider, as this industry transitions into a Next Generation Framework, there are some amazing challenges pertaining to funding, technology, training, etc…
Again, public perception of the industry is very different than the reality.
It takes the public to urge their politicians to enact laws for adequate funding and standardized procedures.
It appears to me that the industry is woefully under-funded and unprepared to utilize the new communication technologies being brought to market today for consumer purchase.
This is a huge public safety issue.
If the public was aware of this fact they would demand that the 9-1-1 system be provided with adequate funds to fully staff the centers with motivated, compassionate and appropriately paid personnel.
They would demand the center be outfitted with the tools needed to process today’s technologies.
They would demand that policies, procedures and technologies be in place to reduce the opportunity for human error.
I submit to you,... that this public outcry for improvements to the 9-1-1 system will happen at a far more rapid rate by publicizing and focusing on the mishaps in the industry as opposed to the success stories of lives saved.
I don’t know how many of you saw the Dr. Phil show that Mr. Charles Cullen and I were featured on.
And, I know many of you cringed as you watched an hour of these painful stories.
But, if you looked at the message board on Dr. Phil’s website, you would have seen that show generated more comments than almost any show aired during that 2 or 3 week timeframe.
The Dateline NBC episode featuring our tragedy was the #1 story on the Dateline website for 6 weeks.
That’s what this industry needs.
That’s the kind of public reaction and outrage that will drive public policy for change.
The stories of talented call takers and dispatchers who provide calming directions to a father to help birth his son or daughter are heart warming. And these 911 workers need to be recognized and rewarded. I think of these stories as being miraculous and applaud them.
But I wonder if these stories are not counter-productive to raising public awareness of the shortfalls in funding that, I am sure all of you agree, are facing this industry.
If the public just sees these “feel good” stories, they will feel no urgent need to approve an additional fee on their phone bill to improve a 9-1-1 system that appears to have no problems or challenges.
Let me tell you what The Denise Amber Lee Foundation is doing to prove this theory.
Unfortunately, in our home state of Florida, there are no shortages of 9-1-1 tragedies.
Our initiative in Florida is to build a database of these tragic instances and identify the Florida legislators who represent the victims in those legislative districts.
These legislators are willing soldiers in the fight for mandatory training, increased funding and other issues that need addressing in the state’s 9-1-1 system.
It becomes political suicide to oppose changing the system that may have contributed to the death of one of their constituents.
For those cold-hearted legislators who still don’t feel the need to act, the press is more than willing to publicize their opposition.
My father recently contacted New York Assemblyman David Koon for his advice on making changes to Florida’s laws.
He came across Assemblyman Koon’s story on the E-911 Institute’s website.
Mr. Koon’s daughter, Jennifer, was abducted from a suburban mall parking lot in 1993 and murdered.
Mr. Koon was aware of Denise’s story.
When he heard the pain and disgust in my father’s voice, he also heard the dedication and commitment to do something about it.
Mr. Koon offered his heartfelt condolences and then chuckled and said “I know exactly what you’re feeling and get ready for an education in politics.”
He said, you need to set up meetings with legislators in Tallahassee and appeal to their sense of compassion, fairness, and doing what is right.
And if that doesn’t work be prepared to get in their face and start yelling and screaming.
He went on to say; “Don’t underestimate the power of threats.
Tell him or her that if they won’t support this legislation, you will run against them in the next election and take their seat.”
And he was saying this from experience….This is exactly how Assemblyman Koon’s political career started.
When he asked a local official to have security cameras installed in the parking lot where his daughter was abducted, he was told no.
That local official lost the following election to.... Mr. David Koon. Thus began his political career.
One of Mr. Koon’s legislative priorities was full funding of E-911 in New York State.
His daughter made a 9-1-1 call during her abduction ordeal but, although the call lasted 20 minutes, 9-1-1 dispatchers were unable to locate her.
E-911 was not fully implemented as late as 2003 because of opposition of then governor, George Pataki.
When 4 teenagers in a row boat on Long Island Sound died because no one could locate their position after a call for help to 9-1-1, Assemblyman Koon went on state TV and called Governor Pataki a murderer for not signing this legislation.
The next time the legislation came before the governor, it was promptly signed.
When John Walsh’s son, Adam was abducted, he and his wife assumed that the FBI would come swooping in immediately to catch the bad guy and return their son.
What they found out was shocking to them.
The FBI could look for stolen automobiles but was not authorized to look for stolen children.
To their further amazement was the fact that there was no national database to keep track of the over 150,000 child abduction cases each year.
The shocking reality of their story brought much needed attention to this issue and was instrumental in the passage of The Missing Children’s Act and the establishment of the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children.
Let me give you just a couple other examples where these tragedies energized society and policy makers in a positive way for change.
In 1996, 9 year old Amber Hagerman was abducted while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas.
Four days after the abduction, her body was found in a drainage ditch.
Her parents, with the help of Marc Klaas, whose own daughter Polly had been abducted and murdered in 1993, soon established People Against Sex Offenders.
The intense media coverage and public outrage this case generated forced Congress to draft the Amber Hagerman Child Protection Act which was eventually signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton.
Of course this led to the very successful Amber Alert System that we are all familiar with today.
And this last example, unfortunately, again comes from my home state of Florida.
Jessica Lunsford was a young girl in Florida who was raped and murdered by John Couey, a convicted sex offender.
Couey lived just a few hundred yards from the Lunsford home.
Public outrage over this case spurred Florida officials to introduce and pass “Jessica’s Law.”
This is the informal name given to a law designed to punish sex offenders by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and lifetime electronic monitoring.
These are just a few, of the many examples of the power of these tragic events.
These are examples of where rapid change occurred as a result of the good people in society, rallying around cause, brought to their attention by media coverage of a tragedy.
As I wrap up my presentation here today let me reiterate that you and I know that these tragedies are truly a small percentage of all calls made to 9-1-1 every year.
I don’t have the statistics but I am sure some of you do.
But I want you to consider that this very small percentage can have a huge... positive impact on this industry if it can be channeled and focused in a responsible way.
You are on the front lines of one of the noblest causes there is; saving of human lives.
You are compassionate and dedicated people who do your best under stressful situations.
The French novelist Victor Hugo once said;
“Greater than the threat of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.”
I truly feel that the time has come for the dedicated, committed members of this industry to embrace this idea as a powerful weapon for change.
The Denise Amber Lee Foundation wants to position itself at the forefront of this issue.
We want to not only provide comfort and support to the families of victims but also to provide hope…
That their loved one didn’t die in vain.
We want to give them an outlet and an avenue to channel their pain, anguish, and yes; sometimes anger to bring about changes and improvements to this essential service.
We envision a partnership with 9-1-1 industry members and responsible media to drive change to public policy.
It is true that media tends to sensationalize these stories to boost ratings but isn’t this what we want?....
As many people as possible to see the senseless and sometimes tragic outcomes resulting from the lack of funding that would allow you to better train and equip your 9-1-1 Communication Centers?
I have to tell you that the media has shown true compassion to us during our tragedy and seem genuine in their offers of assistance to help us anyway they can.
I want to again thank CalNENA for this opportunity.
We are excited and looking forward to the next couple of days and we are energized for this cause.
I would urge all of you to visit our website at www.DeniseAmberLee.org and we welcome all comments and suggestions and finally let me leave you with this:..
The 18th century Irish political leader and author, Edmund Burke, once said
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
I have seen the evil in our society but I have also seen the good;
and I have enough faith in human nature to predict that if people knew about the problems and challenges of this industry
AND the sometimes horrifying consequences of its failures, they would do something to stop it.
Thank you and God Bless you for your service.
Monday, February 23, 2009
I felt I was making progress in my own grief. I was doing much better.
I don't know if it's the Haleigh Cummings story or going through the newspapers articles on Denise that have set me back. I think it's a combination.
I had already pretty much decided that I best not look at Haleigh news anymore. I still pray with all my heart they find her. But the stories about her family are breaking my heart. I don't understand why people hurt children. I can't wrap my mind around it.
Cutting out the newspaper articles on Denise hasn't helped. It just makes me miss Denise all the more. She was so wonderful.
And I barely knew her. She was so shy. I tried to draw her out and then I stopped. I thought "heck! We have years together. Why push her? We'll have holidays, baseball games, shopping and lunches! We have years ahead of us to forge a bond." So, I didn't push her. And it never happened. All I knew was that she was a great mommy and a wonderful wife to my son. We got along, we chatted but did we bond? Maybe some but not nearly as much as we could have.
I'm so so sorry, Denise. I hope I didn't let you down. I miss you, sweetheart.
Good news is you are saving lives. Nathan and Mark are out in San Diego. Nathan is to give his speech in the morning. I'm so so proud of him. You would be too. I love you, baby.
While packing boxes and cleaning out closets we came across all the newspapers since Denise died last January 2008. It's a stack about 3 and half feet tall.
We asked Nate what he wanted to do with them.
He said he wanted them all laminated but we can't afford to do that and even so I'd still have to face the task at hand.
He asked me to cut all the articles out. I said sure. Not thinking how awful it would be. I decided I had plenty of plastic sleeves for binders and they could go in there. Plus while they are in San Diego and Sue (Denise's mom) was taking care of the kids, I'd have plenty of time.
Well..... I just started.
Let's see. She died and was taken January 17. The first newspaper articles ran January 18. I'm only on January 19 and already I'm crying.
And I'm not even reading the articles. I'm just cutting them out. But all the pictures! Nathan, the babies, Denise and MICHAEL KING. As if he deserves to be on the same page taking up the same print as Denise and Nathan.
The January 19 headline is: "WHY WAS DENISE LEE TAKEN?"
Yes. That's the magic question. Why?
The other day I found some of Denise's clothes in a closet. They are still sitting there. I didn't know what to do with them.
Lee to speak at 911 conference in California
NORTH PORT -- Speaking to television crews and newspaper reporters of his wife's abduction and murder is something Nathan Lee has made a part of his mission to get the word out about what he calls a "broken 911 system."
Tuesday, Nathan will share that message with thousands in California expected at a 911 conference.
The story of 21-year-old Denise Amber Lee's death last January made national headlines. Nathan, 24, spoke on the "Dr. Phil" show, NBC's "Dateline," "20/20" and on local TV news about how that fateful Jan. 17, 2008, day changed many lives.
Now during interviews, Nathan explains how a foundation of volunteers has been created in Denise's name. Its mission is to improve the 911 dispatch system and bring a state-of-the-art 911 call center to North Port.
On Sunday, members of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation -- Nathan, the president; his father, Mark, research director; Dave Dignam, advisory council director; and North Port City Commissioner David Garofalo, community relations director -- flew to California for the annual California National Emergency Number Association conference. The team will support Nathan, who was invited to be the keynote speaker.
The three-day event will offer breakout sessions and discussions on technological advances, overcoming challenges, and truths and myths about radio systems, history, regionalizing systems and numerous other lessons for 911 dispatchers.
On Tuesday, Nathan will have an hour and a half to tell his story of life after Denise's murder.
Just one year later, his story includes a lawsuit against the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office claiming "negligence leading to Denise's death." Nathan says none of the critical information provided by Tampa resident Jane Kowalski, the last witness believed to have seen Denise alive, was relayed to CCSO deputies or North Port police officers during the massive manhunt on the night Denise was killed.
Traveling on U.S 41 near the Charlotte-Sarasota county line, Kowalski told a Charlotte County 911 dispatcher what she was witnessing in the dark-colored Camaro alongside her, reportedly driven by suspect Michael King. Kowalski said she saw someone banging on the window and screaming. The car turned onto Toledo Blade Boulevard during her conversation.
Denise's body was found two days later off Toledo Blade, near Interstate 75.
The CCSO did not relay Kowalski's information to North Port police until then, when local investigators requested it. North Port only learned about Kowalski after she called city police to see if they were interested in what she witnessed. Kowalski maintains that following her nine-minute 911 call, Charlotte County has never tried to call her again for any additional information.
King, 37, of North Port, was charged with Denise's abduction, rape and murder. His trial is set for August.
"Last year, I learned that when Denise's story was told to a group of dispatchers, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Even the instructor had a difficult time continuing the class," Nathan said. "Denise should be here with our two boys (Noah, 3, and Adam, 19 months) today. I will take every opportunity offered to explain that more needs to be done about the broken 911 system.
"This is an opportunity for our organization to reach across state lines and let our country know that the foundation's ultimate goal is to increase the level of training for 911 call takers and dispatchers, eventually making these standards mandatory," he said. "We hope to gain a working relationship with the state of California, which already has increased levels of training."
Garofalo, a fire captain in Pasco County, said first responders should be afforded additional training.
"No one should ever worry when they call for help that a 911 operator, a police officer or firefighter is not properly trained," he said.
For more information about the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, visit www.deniseamberlee.org.
By ELAINE ALLEN-EMRICH
North Port Community News Editor
Geraldo had a reason for going after the father. He has a photograph of a very beaten up Haleigh. It seems the child has been abused, and on multiple occasions. The legal dept. at Fox is trying to confirm the validity of the photo, as well as any legal ramifications, before they release it. Geraldo is merely doing his job, maa'm. If the child was abused, then I would say that's pretty relevant, wouldn't you? Anonymous
see link: http://toosad4words.blogspot.com/2009/02/rant-little-haleigh-cummings-and-her.html
How to respond?
Until Fox verifies the photo, I believe it's best to hold onto this type of, yes, I would agree very crucial information. But apparently Fox hasn't verified the photo.
Shouldn't Fox give the photo to the police? Who in their right mind would give the photo to FoxNews and not the police?
That's sick. And it's still wrong IMNSHO to go after the father until they have their facts straight.
Sick. When Denise was missing a witness came forward who claimed to have seen her at the post office "without" the kids. That's pretty bad stuff. For anyone to think Denise would leave the kids home a lone was ludicrous. It's been proved she wasn't at the post office and she never left her kids. But you know what? Because it was reported, people believed it. I still get people asking me about the post office.
All along it was some nut case who only wanted his/her 5 minutes of fame.
So, dear FoxNews, please give the photo to police and verify it before you report it. Because, personally, I'm not going to believe it until it's proven.
added edit: I would very much like to know 'who' gave this photo to police. And I'd look very critically at that person. Why wasn't the photo given to DCF at the time of the alleged abuse? Does the police have a copy of the photo too? Who leaked this if they do, and what agenda do they have? It's just too sad.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Apparently there's a lot of speculation going around about this family. The poor beleaguered dad is almost on trial. The poor beleaguered mom isn't helping the situation.
I hope and pray for this young child's sake that this family does all it can to stay together and represent a united front.
By infighting and pointing fingers of past offenses they are only making their suffering worse.
I wish somehow, someone would get this message across to them. .
Geraldo Rivera was issued a no trespassing warrant because he brought up some disgusting stuff with some terribly foul questions. He had the cruelty to pose those questions to the distraught father. That's just wrong. The father hasn't been indicted on any charges and to ask him questions about abuse during his marriage while his little girl is lost well...... Having a bad marriage doesn't make you a murderer. And the mom lost custody. She must've lost custody for a reason. To say there's some bitterness there would probably be an understatement.
This family needs to rise above their petty squabbling and stand together. If and when Haleigh comes back she's going to need BOTH her parents.
Maybe people like Geraldo don't think they are being cruel. Maybe they believe they have the right of free speech to ask any question they'd like.
Well, I submit to you that maybe they do have that right. But it doesn't make the right thing to do.
If these people had just an inkling of the pain that this family is going through they'd shut their foul mouths and wait for the police to do their jobs. They'd stop pointing fingers. They'd help the police. They'd help the family.
I imagine the Cummings family has friends who are helping them. I hope they have a community that is supporting them.
I'm telling you that when someone in your family goes missing, you can't handle any more pain.
Gosh, I'd wish they'd find this poor little girl.
Again, what has the world come to? Why are people hurting our kids? What is it in Florida? Is it Florida? Or is it everywhere and we just get all the bad pub?
Pilar Rodriguez, Carlie Brucia, Jessica Lunsford, Coral Rose Fullwood, Trenton Duckett, Caylee Anthony, Haleigh Cummings.......... And those just off the top of my head.
In more than one of the cases above the public scrutinized the families horribly and were wrong.
Let's look at these cases.
Pilar is still unsolved. They think she was abducted by her babysitter.
Carlie Brucia was abducted by a stranger and murdered. Her mother was pretty much and still is on trial by the community. Last tihing I heard she was drugged out and possibly a hooker or maybe it was a stripper. Who knows if that's correct? Bottom line is the child was taken by a stranger!
Jessica Lunsofrd was abducted by a stranger and murdered. Her dad was suspect in the beginning. Everyone was sure he did it or that the grandparents had been neglectful. People still mention the dad and saying he should'nt have gone out on a date that night and he should've been home. Sheesh.
Coral Rose Fullwood was abducted and murdered by a stranger. Possibly more than one. Immediately the family was put on trial. Reports of child abuse and neglect. The children were taken away from the parents. There were reports of human feces on the walls of their home. The father had child porn on his computer. But! Bottom line it's a stranger who's awaiting trial in jail. No connection to the Fullwood's has been proved.
Trenton Duckett remains unsolved. His mom was blamed by the public and the press. She was never arrested. But, she committed suicide after Nancy Grace went after her. Trenton is still missing. Gee. So, losing a child and having to deal with the predators of the press can lead to suicide. Who knows? Maybe she was guilty of something. Sadly, because of the press, we'll never know. The police were unable to do their jobs.
Caylee Anthony. Who knows? I can't even begin to write about her case. But the mom's in jail. It took them a long time to get her in jail but she's there. Who knows what went on with the grandparents? Has the press distorted the facts or are the grandparents as whacked out as we've been led to believe?
Which leads us to Haleigh Cummings. And WE DON'T KNOW ANYTHING! IMO it's best to let the police do their jobs. The family IMO should shut up to the press, cooperate with the police and stay united. These reports about them pointing fingers and mentioning past transgressions is not good for them and it's not good for Haleigh.
God give them strength and courage. They have a long road ahead of them no matter what's found out.
I continue to keep the entire family (both sides) in my prayers.
added edit: I really need to send a thank you to the press who have handled our case. You truly on the most part have shown compassion towards us and you have helped us. Thank you for that.
Pray they fly safe. I know it seems a little over the top but I truly am worried about them. Before Denise died I wouldn't normally be this nervous. But since she died I don't think anything can shock me.
Anyhow, I'm so excited for Nathan and I'm very proud of him. Nathan, Mark, Dave Dignam of Key Agency and David Garofalo a North Port City Commissioner flew out there together to represent the Denise Amber Lee Foundation. They are going to the CalNENA convention where Nathan is slated to be the keynote speaker.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with NENA it stands for National Emergency Number Association. And the "Cal", of course, refers to California.
Many people in California have been in touch with Nathan and Mark since Denise's tragedy. We have received mail and emails from all over the world and as far away as Australia (thinking of you Mark S and Tracie H).
California's support has been overwhelming. Apparently they are doing all they can to continually improve their 9-1-1 system. Nathan's speech is to last close to 40 minutes along with an introductory video about Denise and what went wrong.
Nathan's been practicing his speech at our local church that seats 1,000. He believes he'll be speaking to 600 9-1-1 industry persons. I'm so proud of him and I know Denise would be too. He does so well. This is the kind of stuff that keeps him going.
The babies keep him going but..... this is quite different. We're all simply doing our best to see that Denise's tragedy didn't happen in vain.
The creep/murderer/rapist killed Denise but the flaws in our local 9-1-1 center directly led to her death. She would've been saved.
For those of you who don't know, Denise somehow managed to call 9-1-1 using the Michael King's cellphone. For 7 (seven) minutes Michael King didn't realize that 9-1-1 was on the line and they could hear Denise pretending as if she's talking to him. Saying things like "I can't see!" "Who are you?" "Please take me home to my babies. They are alone!" "My name is Denise Amber Lee" etc.... Then tragically he realized he couldn't find his phone and the call was abruptly ended. Because Denise had 9-1-1 on the cell phone for 7 minutes we believe she thought she was going to be found. Sadly, the technology that could have saved her is available but it's not being used. With more and more people using cell phones, we believe it's imperative they put inexpensive GPS units in all cell phones. The thing is it's not that expensive.
I've blogged enough about what happened in the Charlotte County's 9-1-1 center. That will all come out one day I'm sure. If you're interested and don't know the details I've posted them previously. They messed up royally in many many ways. They had a caller on the line giving cross streets but they didn't dispatch a car! Oh, I won't go there. And they seemingly ignored 3 crucial BOLOs. (Be On the Look Outs).
So, yes, we believe that better training, better pay for a better quality personnel, better standards and using leading edge technology in our 9-1-1 centers will definitely save lives. There are too many tragedies.
Right now Florida residents are paying 50 cents per month on their cell phone bills for 9-1-1 service. Gee, who wouldn't pay a $1 more? $12 more a year for life insurance.
Also, the general public needs to know what works and what doesn't work.
Now I'm writing a speech. After he gives his speech on Tuesday, I'll ask him if I can print it here for y'all to see.
I'm going to miss Mark. I don't like being without him. I miss him already:o(
Fox anchor banned from camp of missing girl's father
Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera was issued a trespass warning after a contentious interview with the father of a missing Putnam County girl.
As the search for 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings entered its 13th day, the county was abuzz about the contentious interview with her father Saturday night with Rivera.
Cummings got upset when Rivera said he'd been told by members of Haleigh's mother's family that Cummings hit the child and has said he is 75 percent sure he knows who has her.
Putnam County Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene later, and issued Rivera the trespass warning at the request of the two property owners on whose land the Cummings family is camping while their trailer remains closed off as a crime scene.
A trespass warning means Rivera would be arrested if he came back onto the property. Rivera told deputies he understood and stated he would not come back to the address, but declined to sign the trespass warning, according to a sheriff’s office report.
Obviously there's still no news of little Haleigh. And now it's not just the speculators it's the speculating press. What's Rivera trying to do? Is he trying to upstage the Nancy Grace debacle that cost Trenton Duckett mother's life.
Geez this stuff really upsets me.
LEAVE THE FAMILY ALONE!!!!! WE DON'T HAVE ANY FACTS YET!!!!! LET'S FIND THE LITTLE GIRL!!!! THEN START PUTTING THE PERSON OR PERSONS ON TRIAL. BUT LET'S FIRST FIGURE OUT WHO SHOULD GO ON TRIAL AND IF AND WHAT CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED.
I'm so angry at FoxNews right now. this is disgusting. This is the press at it's worst.
Dang! This makes so angry.
Thank goodness the press has been kind to my family.
I can't imagine having a lost child and having to deal with the likes of Geraldo Rivera, who apparently is a predator. He's definitely preying on other people's tragedies.
Dear Cummings family! Stay strong! And stay united! If and when Kayleigh does come home, she'll need you to be united.
I pray she comes home soon.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Here's the link. I hope it works:
Pray they stay strong and focused.
Pray they don't let their anger take over their senses and that they maintain a united front.
Pray they lean on each other and the police as much as possible.
Pray they don't let the speculators get to them. Those people don't have a clue as to what this family is going through.
Pray they find the S. O. B. who has taken this little girl. Whether the person be male of female to inflict this kind of pain on a child and her family he/she has to be evil. Sadly it could be more than one person.
I must be healing. For a long time after we lost Denise I wasn't able to let other people's pain in. I was oblivious to the world around me. I'm still pretty oblivious but apparently not as oblivious as I was. I couldn't handle any more additional pain at the time.
Now, I just get so angry at people. I wasn't able to follow the Caylee Anthony story while Caylee was missing. I couldn't wrap my mind around it. I wasn't angry then. I was oblivious and numb. When people were speculating about the mother Casey, I blocked it out and stayed away from it. That story was so bazaar. Still is. I could feel myself getting angry with that family and that was wrong. We still don't know the whole story and until we do, I'm going to continue to do my best to not judge them. I simply don't understand them. It's so so terrible what they are going through.
I'm just heartbroken for the Cummings family. Their lives (they probably don't realize it yet) are now changed irrevocably forever.
Major sigh. It just saddens me.
Dear Denise, if Haleigh is with you, please rock her! But then if she's up there, you probably already are. Miss you, Denise.
There's not a whole lot to do in Port Charlotte for these young men. We're on the sleepy side of Florida. I feel bad for them. It's so bad that last night at the stadium they saw a wild pig and spent a couple hours chasing it and trying to hunt it down. They say he was an 800 lb pig. Who knows? I said to Mark "next they'll be saying it's albino!" It's that sleepy over here. At least over on the East coast you have Miami and stuff happening at night. Over here it's wild pig hunting! It's beautiful over here but there's not much going on to interest young men, IMO. Not this far south of Tampa.
Mark usually goes by himself but last night he took me to Crackers for a beer. He's getting ready to go away with Nathan to CA for a 9-1-1 convention/conference thing. We don't get out much because of money and, of course, because we're just not into partying right now. But, because he's going away and because I'll miss him, last night we went out cruising for ball players.
Mark and I always sit at the bar wherever we go. If there are no bar stools available, we leave and go somewhere else.
Anyhow! Evan Longoria was sitting 3 empty bar stools away from Mark (yeah, 4 stools from me but Mark refused to switch stools, LOL! Trust me, I suggested it). I'm no longer a young girl but my heart still pitter patters when I see a major league baseball player. My all time hero is Brooks Robinson.
Anyhow, Mark and I believe (as do many people) that Evan Longoria will make it to Cooperstown one day.
Mr Longoria was gracious enough to sign the boys pictures.........
Thank you Mr Longoria!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Babies and children are so very beautiful. And they are our future!
I love this song. It's beautiful in it's simplicity.
So you speak to me of sadness
And the coming of the winter
Fear that is within you now
It seems to never end
And the dreams that have escaped you
And the hope that youve forgotten
You tell me that you need me now
You want to be my friend
And you wonder where were going
Wheres the rhyme and wheres the reason
And its you cannot accept
It is here we must begin
To seek the wisdom of the children
And the graceful way of flowers in the wind
For the children and the flowers
Are my sisters and my brothers
Their laughter and their loveliness
Could clear a cloudy day
Like the music of the mountains
And the colours of the rainbow
Theyre a promise of the future
And a blessing for today
Though the cities start to crumble
And the towers fall around us
The sun is slowly fading
And its colder than the sea
It is written from the desert
To the mountains they shall lead us
By the hand and by the heart
They will comfort you and me
In their innocence and trusting
They will teach us to be free
For the children and the flowers
Are my sisters and my brothers
Their laughter and their loveliness
Could clear a cloudy day
And the song that I am singing
Is a prayer to non believers
Come and stand beside us
We can find a better way
Words and music by john denver
It's the one place where we can go and not feel uncomfortable talking about our grief. It's difficult talking about homicide grief. It's rare, at least in my family, that we talk about it amongst family and friends. Why? You'd think we'd want to talk about it. Well, for us it's because we don't want to cause our loved ones anymore pain than they are already feeling. Let's say one of us is having an okay day, maybe even a good day. Who would want to spoil that day by bringing up our own grief? It's just going to bring them down. It's not going to lift us up by sharing it. Also, once we start talking about it, instead of grief coming out, we all start getting angry. And anger is a major part of the grief. We're not angry at each other, we're angry at the situation. We feel cheated.
And then when we do see people that we haven't seen for a long time... I don't know. They start asking questions and we don't mind answering them. They want to know. They're interested. They care. But after a while of talking about it.... I just get ill. I don't know about other people.
At the POMC meetings the others don't look at you cross eyed when you start talking about that anger. They "get it". They feel the same anger. They don't mention the cliches. If you start blubbering, they know just what to say. And sometimes it's nothing. Some of the people there have been there for years. They are especially helpful because they can give at least a little direction if not much. We are all so different. But there's hope in seeing them there. I feel a sense of comfort having them there. Seeing that they are still sane and haven't gone bonkers. These people aren't going to say "don't dwell on it" "you have to move on" "think of the positives" "God has his reasons" "think of the grandchildren" etc....
That's a rich one. "Think of the grandchildren". As if we don't think of the grandchildren!
I just erased a whole paragraph. I was going to share some of the stories from other families but I had to remind myself they are not my stories to share.
All the stories are tragic. All the stories are heartbreaking. All the stories make you want to cry.
Anyhow, they meet on Wednesday nights. Unfortunately, Wednesdays are Nathan's days off. So, a lot of the foundation business is usually planned for Wednesdays. Last night I missed the meeting because Nathan was practicing his CalNENA keynote address. I wanted to hear it. I could've made the decision to go to the POMC meeting but I opted to listen to Nathan. It's a 45 minute speech and it will address some 600 people.
I missed the last meeting because Nathan had a foundation meeting. I could've opted for the POMC meeting but it's rare I get to go to foundation meetings. I'm usually watching the babies. So, I opted for Nathan's meeting.
I just got word this morning that the SW Florida POMC is going to have 2 meetings a month. One in Punta Gorda and the other in Fort Myers. So, hopefully I'll be able to attend one or the other.
I missed December's meeting. I forget why. I missed November's meeting (it was my birthday). I may even have missed October's meeting! I can't even remember. But, it's been months.
posted in both blogs
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
But if this family is feeling what I felt when Denise died, they are feeling "emotionally exposed and naked." It's an awful feeling. You feel like a circus monkey.
There are these two separate comments about the biological mom on one of the websites:
I think the biological mother has something to do with it, why hasn’t she cried? She seems to be going along with everything, but doesn’t seem sad, just my opinion, but I know if that ever ever happened to any of my children I would be going crazy!!
i think the real mom took her and is hiding her somewhere she knows fathers work schedule and knows 17 yr old would be blamed, she could have told her to be quiet explaining how misty didnt wake up or hear anything, just a gut feeling she was prob pissed she lost custody went awfully fast from blaming misty to all of the sudden saying she doesnt think misty did anything.. she and her mom put that in everyones head then defends her also dont remember mom talking poly..
Geez! Who knows why the mom isn't crying. Maybe she doesn't like the feeling of being a circus monkey. Maybe she's numb. If she's innocent of any crime here, I can only imagine her feelings of guilt. The only thing we know she's guilty of is losing custody of Haliegh to the biological dad. That's pretty bad. I imagine she's feeling horrific guilt for not being a stable enough parent to be there for her child. And she believes that if she were a better mom maybe this wouldn't be happening.
We can't draw conclusions that she's guilty of murder just because she hasn't cried.
As to the second comment, yeah, I guess it's possible. But who knows? I imagine the police have already considered this if only because when a child is missing from a broken home the first person they look at is the other parent (the one without custody). Just as in Denise's case, the first person they looked at was Nathan.
So all these theories are just spinning air.
We shouldn't start putting someone on trial until we know who to put on trial.
Let's concentrate on finding this little girl.
I'm telling you, having been through it, these people are suffering and are under an unbelievable amount of strain. And I guarantee you they have family members reading this BS on the web.
We need to be praying and not speculating. Just my opinion.
The only reason I keep repeating myself is I hope that this message just reaches if only a few people that it will be heard and people may feel more compassion.
As I said in a earlier post, I know it's because we're all searching for answers. I understand that. And I may have joined in on the speculation before Denise died. But now I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of the speculation. It's horrible. You're already feeling confused, lost, numb, helpless, grief stricken in not knowing, powerless, dread, worry and a gambit of emotions that I can't even begin to describe.
I'm not trying to preach. I'm just trying to send a message. I imagine the Lunsfords, the Brucias, the Ducketts etc..... would all understand what I'm trying to say.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
They were speculating about Haleigh's mom. They were speculating about Haleigh's dad. They were speculating about the girlfriend. They were speculating as to why police weren't looking into this family.
I submit to you that the police are looking into this family.
At least I hope so.
But still.... WE DON'T KNOW BEANS RIGHT NOW!!!
Gosh, I dread what's going on or what has happened to this little girl.
What have we come to as people? Are we animals preying on our young?
What in the world is going on? I just don't get it.
I can't stop crying. Sorry. Bad enough and heartbreaking enough to consider strangers doing something horrific to this little girl. But to think that someone in her only family could do something to her........ it should be ludicrous. Sadly, it's not so ludicrous. Nothing could shock me now.
But I still think it's wrong to judge people without knowing all the facts.
It's frustrating. I guess what happened with Denise has jaded my opinion of the credibility of TV news sources. I really don't know how to word what I'm trying to say.
Let me try and spell it out if not for you at least for myself.
Do I trust TV news? Yes and no. Do I believe everything I see on TV? Definitely not. Do I believe TV crews purposefully mislead people? Not really. Maybe a little. But, no, I think they just want to keep a story alive.
Aside here: It's important to keep stories like Haleigh Cummings alive. We never want people to lose interest in finding a lost person, especially a child. So the fact that they are keeping this story alive is a good thing.
But in keeping the story alive, do they keep repeating themselves? Yes. Do they grasp at straws? Yes.
What about the Nancy Grace's and the Greta Van Susteran's of the world? Are they ambulance chasers making a buck over other people's misfortune? Yes. Do they truly care? I don't know. I guess Nancy Grace does.
A lot of people don't like Nancy Grace. I have difficulty watching her show. She seems to be a fairly bitter woman. Almost a shrew. I have nightmares that if I let my anger really take over that I'll become bitter too. I'll become a shrew. Apparently Nancy Grace has reason to be angry and bitter.
This is what wiki has to say about Nancy Grace:
"As a student, Grace was a fan of Shakespearean literature, and intended to become an English professor after graduating from college. However, after the murder of her fiancé, Keith Griffin, when she was 19, Grace decided to enroll in law school and went on to become a felony prosecutor and a supporter of victims' rights."
I have to respect and admire that. I understand it too. I imagine that changed her world forever, just as Denise's murder has changed my world.
I know I'm not the same person I was before Denise died. And, I too, want to channel my anger and energies to where they may make a difference by helping others. Whether it's through 9-1-1 reform, helping to raise my grandbabies, or simply speaking out about homicide grief.
I have a difficult time watching Nancy Grace. I know from different people they have a difficult time reading my blog. I lack the social tact and graces I used to have. I understand at least some of what Nancy Grace is all about. Her world was shattered and blown apart. And she was only 19 years old.
Greta Van Susteran though. I don't get her. And, I like FoxNews. But Greta's show soured on me during the Natalie Holloway case. I was so sick of it. I still am sick of it. And that upsets me because Natalie Holloway deserves the same compassion as Denise did and does. But because it's been "over" reported people have become numb to it. That just seems wrong.
Both Nancy Grace and Greta Van Susteran tried to do a story with Nate. But at the time we weren't interested.
In any case, little Haleigh's story needs to be kept alive, at least until they find her. And then if it's bad (and I imagine by now it's going to be bad) it needs to stay out there so we can take care of what went wrong.
What is it about Florida? Pilar Rodriguez, Caylee Anthony, Jessica Lunsford, Carlie Brucia, Trenton Duckett, Coral Rose Fullwood, and now Haleigh Cummings.
Now I'm not saying Haleigh is dead or even that Pilar is dead. We don't know. But they are missing and the pain and suffering their families are going through no matter how many years apart must still be intense.
It's interesting. I wish they'd keep these stories alive. I think of the Missouri boy, Shawn Hornbeck, quite often. Even before Denise went missing, I thought of him quite a bit and posted messages on his website. I'd love to know how he's doing. I know it would be an invasion of his privacy and his world has been messed with enough. But, I'd truly like to know that he's doing okay.
Excuse me for rambling about this. I'm just trying to get my thoughts straight
Denise Amber Lee case and Other news
Really there is not a whole lot of news right now. The case is moving forward. We think it'll be August 2008 but we're not banking on it.
The boys are doing well. They are happy again. They went through a spell of...... I don't know. They just weren't themselves but they are again. We're trying to potty train Noah and we're trying to wean Adam off the bottle.
Adam is talking up a storm. Repeats everything. He's also very independent. He runs now and is trying to learn to jump. This is scary because he's becoming a climber. And he's an eating machine. You have it, he wants it. He has it, he wants more. He'll eat just about anything.
Noah is no longer a baby. Noah has blossomed into a little boy. And he's all boy! He's now talking in full sentences. He can now discuss his feelings. He knows who lives down which roads. For example if we pass MomMom's street in the car, he'll say "MomMom's road!" He can tell you how to get from the house to the store by giving directions.
Both still love to be held though. Noah won't always give kisses and hugs anymore but he still enjoys just cozying up on Mark's or my lap.
I miss Denise all the time. Now that I'm reading "Peace is Every Step" I don't think about Denise 24/7 as I was doing. I've been practicing my breathing and smiling. It seems to be working.
And now that Nathan has a new lawyer I'm not nearly as obssessed with the Charlotte County Sheriff Office's I/A report into Jane Kowalski's mishandled 9-1-1 call.
I still worry about Nathan. I guess I always will. It breaks my heart to see him continually try to adjust to his new life without Denise. He does really really well. I'm so proud of him. But it's still hard. I'm glad we're here for him. And the Goffs. I'm glad they're here for him too.
If you're reading this, Brian, I miss you! Come home soon!!!
added edit: I just looked on the FDLE website for missing children. http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/mcicsearch/UnsolvedAlerts.asp
Pilar is not listed. Was she found? I don't know because she's still listed on the Charlotte County Sheriff Office's website.
Also looking at the FDLE website Haleigh Cummings is the correct spelling (Tammy you were right) and it's not Hayleigh Cummings.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I also wish they'd report the correct spelling for the poor lost little girl. I still can't figure out if it's "Haleigh" or "Hayleigh". Maybe I'm just dim.
It seems disrespectful to be typing the wrong spelling.
When Denise was first reported missing all the news reports kept calling her "Amber". It drove us crazy! We kept telling them, she's not Amber she's DENISE! But they continued to report Amber as if to sensationalize the story even further. In any case it was like sticking needles in us. People to this day still say Amber! As recently as this past week someone said "oh, I'm so sorry about Amber. I've been following her story." All because in those first few days that's how the story was aired.
I think people who have never gone through anything like this before don't understand how much just one little statement can hurt. One little word can feel like a dagger in the heart. That's how distressed we were and most of the time still are. And that's how distressed this family is.
I realize people say stupid things because they don't know what to say. And I realize that families like ours are super sensitive. We don't know what to say either.
What ever the case, sure! Maybe someone inside the family circle harmed this little girl. And sure! Maybe one of them was neglectful. But just as sure a stranger may have crept in and taken her the way that evil monster Couey crept into Jessica Lunsford's home and snatched her! Everyone was so sure that because the family lived in a trailer, someone in the family was responsible. The only facts in Haleigh's story right now are that we don't have any. We don't know what happened. And it's the entire family who is in pain. The entire family. So the speculation hurts them all. And aren't they hurting enough?????????
I remember people speculating about my son Nathan. I remember people speculating about Denise. I remember the not so whispered "Well, she must've known him!" and the "why would she have let him in!"
Well he had a gun people! Obviously since he shot her in the head, it's clear he had a gun! And she had two babies she needed to protect.
Anyhow, I wish I knew how to spell Haleigh's name correctly. And I wish people wouldn't speculate. It's hurtful.
And, yeah, I too think the girl friend "Misty" is a little young but who am I to judge? And who am I to put these people on trial? Let's find the precious baby. Let's lay out the facts and then put on trial whoever is responsible.
I do understand the need and the compulsion to find answers. We all want answers. We all want to find her and by speculating people are simply puzzling over everything and trying to figure out what happened.
All I'm saying is we can't judge anyone until we know the facts. And right now there are no facts.
I know how angry I sound. These stories just put me back into that place. We're blessed in so many ways, my family is. We have the babies safe and sound. The perpetrator is behind bars. It seems to be an open and shut case for us. We do have the trial coming up. Ugh! And we do have the 9-1-1 issues we're contending with. Ugh! But we have the support of so many people.
So, I'll take my anger back and ask very gently, please, please, please, try not to judge this family until we know what's going on. For the sake of this heartbroken family who can't find their little girl let's try not to be hard on them. Trust me, they are in a kinda of pain that can't begin to be imagined.
Just my opinion as always.
Friday, February 13, 2009
But a beautiful woman just the same. Jackie lived the good life in a small rural town in the Shenandoah Valley.
This was a person with great generosity and filled to the brim with laughter and loveliness. We have very good memories of Jackie and her husband Walt.
I guess the happiest memories are of their barn dances. Indescribable.
Jackie lived a good, long life with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. And because she lived such a full rich life filled with love I'm not sorry to see her die. I believe she's in a better place. It's a place she's looked forward to all her life.
I hadn't seen Jackie in many years. Probably at least a decade if not just a tad longer. They were here for us when Mark's dad died in 1995 and we saw them a couple times after that. But only a couple. They aged too much to travel this far. And we hadn't been to Virginia in years. When we go home we go home to Maryland. My family is so large, all our time is spent visiting them. So, Virginia...... the valley...... Skyline Drive......... all in the past.
Anyhow, thank you, Jackie for so many memories. God bless your family at this time. God bless Walt. I can't imagine Walt without you. It's just inconceivable Walt being without you.
I love you. Say hello to Denise. You'll like Denise. She's a sweetheart and a "keeper".
added edit: If there were only one woman in this life that I could emulate it would be this woman. She was a true 'lady'. Bless you, Jackie, we'll miss you. And I still don't know how Walt will get on without you.