Friday, May 18, 2012

Still Remembered

Kristin Mitchell, on her
May 15, 2005 graduation day
from Saint Joseph's University.
We were in the ladies room before our afternoon presentation, making the type of small talk common to business associates that have just met.

"So. Where are you from, originally?" my counterpart asked, correctly detecting that my accent was not of Pittsburgh origins.

"Philadelphia," I answered.

My colleague nodded, affirming what she had guessed.

"Where exactly, in Philadelphia?"

I answered with my hometown and, for good measure, my college alma mater.

"Oh, wow," she said. "I went to St. Joe's."

A round of NoKiddingSmallWorld commenced. I asked when she graduated; she answered with a year so far enough removed from those of any mutual friends we would possibly have in common. She mentioned a year.  I drew in a breath. I did, as it turned out, know someone who attended St. Joe's around that time.

"Did you happen to know Kristin Mitchell?" I asked.

A pause.

"Oh ...." An intake of breath. "Yes. I did. She was two years older than me."

We went quiet.

"I know the family," I said, by way of explanation. "I never actually had the chance to meet her, but I've met her family during a few events at my previous job with a domestic violence program."

"It was her boyfriend, right? Who killed her?"

Text that Kristin Mitchell sent to her boyfriend.
She would be killed just a few hours later.
It would be her father who would retrieve the text from his daughter's phone.

As I drove home, I couldn't stop thinking about how improbable it was that I would meet someone in this tiny hamlet on a mountain who also knew Kristin and her story.

I thought about how this week had brought another anniversary to the Mitchell family, that of 7 years since her parents and brother last saw Kristin, on her graduation day from St. Joseph's University.  It would also be the first time they would meet her boyfriend, the same one who would kill their daughter just three weeks later on June 3, stabbing her more than 50 times as Kristin attempted to break up with him.

I thought about how different things could have been - should have been - for Kristin. How she should have been leading a life like that of my business colleague and myself, with a career and a family.

I thought about my 10 year old daughter I was heading home to, about how the conversations in our house are changing, about how we are talking a lot about healthy relationships and how someone should treat you in a relationship. I thought about how much I want her to know.

I thought about how much I wanted Kristin's family to know that even in this tiny, rural town, hundreds of miles from where they last saw her, that afternoon Kristin was most definitely remembered.

From "Forever 21," written on August 24, 2010 (Kristin's birthday):
At 21, Kristin Mitchell had her entire life ahead of her. 
She had a brand new college degree from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. A family bursting with pride, with love. A wonderful job lined up with a well-known international food company.
And a boyfriend who killed her - three weeks after this photo was taken.
Three weeks.
Her entire life.
Kristin was in the process of ending the relationship when her boyfriend came to her Conshohocken, Pa. apartment. He had some possessive tendencies.
Kristin didn't know trying to leave him would leave him so violent, so enraged that he would stab her more than 50 times in her own kitchen. She didn't know what domestic violence experts know, that statistics show that the leaving is the most dangerous time in a relationship.
She didn't know that she was, at 21, a victim of domestic abuse.
It is because of the efforts of her friends and family, who established The Kristin Mitchell Foundation in her memory, that many more people now know what Kristin and her friends tragically did not. That dating violence is real. That it is prevalent. That there are warning signs. That there is help. 
That it can and does happen on idyllic college campuses to 21 year old students whose whole lives are ahead of them.
We worry about our kids as we let go, as we send them on their way to begin their lives whether it is on an innocent playground or an idyllic college campus. We worry about  who they choose to accept into their midst. 
We worry about what they don't know.  
We worry about what we, as their parents, don't know.
And even if we're not parents, we worry about what lurks, who is plotting harm, who we know (and who we don't) that has the capability to stab us 50 times, in our kitchen or randomly on the street in broad daylight.  
Sometimes, as in the tragedy that befell the Mitchell family, our greatest fears and those we didn't know were our greatest fears actually become our own personal reality show, one with reruns nonstop on every unchangeable channel of our lives.  
And then it is back to the beginning, of trying to prevent and spread awareness and educate and inform of the dangers we know are out there.  Of keeping vigil and remaining vigilant, of keeping hold while letting go.  
Click here for more information about The Kristin Mitchell Foundation, Kristin's Krusade, as well as what to do if you suspect someone is a victim of dating violence and domestic abuse. 

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

1 comment:

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

a timely reminder for all of us, Melissa. I worry about my 2 older girls all the time. Even the most well-adjusted women can fall for nuts sometimes...and by the time they realize who this person really is, it becomes a scarey situation.