Thursday, February 26, 2009

A year in the papers

Mark and Nate fly back from San Diego today and I'm trying to get as much done as I can while I'm still on my own. I miss them desperately. I also miss the babies. Sue (Denise's mom) has had them all week. I've picked up Adam from school a couple of the days but that's really all I've seen of them.

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

No Headline
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.