Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Cherishing the memories left behind by victims of violence

Senseless acts of violence shatter the routine of our everyday life and hover like dark clouds over the families and close friends of the victims.

When violence happens in small communities, the circle of those who are affected spreads and all of us feel the effects.

Such was the impact of the murder of Barbara McNeely in the Northpark Mall parking lot in September 1977 to those of us in the East Newton and Missouri Southern communities.

In my book Lost Angels, I wrote about two other murders that impacted small communities in this area- the slaying of Hawthorne Elementary second grader Doug Ringler that rocked Carthage in December 1993 and the killing of Triway Elementary fourth grader Rowan Ford that changed Stella forever in November 2007.

Both of those murders were committed by people who were close to the family.

The same was true of the beating that led to the death of 3-year-old Jonathan Munoz-Bilbrey in Joplin in November 2017. The child was killed by his mother's live-in boyfriend.
Jonathan was a boy who loved Christmas and had his own special way of singing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.' The holiday season was just beginning when Jonathan had his future brutally taken from him.

Another senseless act of violence that left an impact on Joplin took place March 8 when a Joplin man with a prior conviction for assaulting a police officer shot three Joplin Police Department officers, killing two and severely wounding the third.

I did not know the two officers who were killed. I knew the third officer, Rick Hirshey, from his time as the resource officer at East Middle School when I was teaching there.

I wondered how many times I might have seen Cpl. Ben Cooper or Officer Jake Reed while they were on duty and just took for granted the jobs they were doing and the risks they were taking each time they were on duty.

Their murders shocked me, and I am sure others out of our complacency. It is easy for us to appreciate our law enforcement community, but that appreciation grows even more when we think of them as human beings and we think of the sacrifices their families make as these officers serve our community.

It is important that we keep these people in our thoughts and prayers.

While violence sometimes takes loved ones away, it is important to keep their memories alive.

Stories on three victims of violence- Cpl. Ben Cooper and Officer Jake Reed of the Joplin Police Department and 3-year-old Jonathan Munoz-Bilbrey are included in my book Remembering: People Who Touched Our Lives.

Signed copies of Remembering are available now at Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe and The Book Guy in Joplin and at the Lamar Democrat in Lamar.

Remembering is also available at Amazon.

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