My names Samantha and I was born and raised in a small state known as Rhode Island. I grew up with both of my parents and my three siblings. We had a pretty normal life for awhile. It wasn’t until our parents downward spiral into drugs and alcohol that everything started to change. Our parents had an extremely toxic relationship and they exposed us to their unhealthy behaviors. They could never seem to get along. Always at eachothers throats. It wasn’t until our parents arguments started turning into something more violent that they finally separated. We ended up moving with our dad to our grandmothers house, which turned out to be the best thing for us. Our grandmother helped raise us and always did the best she could to give us a good life.
We lived on a dead end street with the woods aside our house. Our local park was across the street. It was a really nice part of the city. We did kid things; made mud pies, played school, explored the woods, played at the park. Our nightly dinner call was my dad whistling from the front porch of our house. This part of my childhood I’m thankful for. Memories I will cherish forever.
In 2006, we lost a piece of us when our sister Savannah was taken from us. She was only eight years old when our next door neighbor decided to kidnap, rape, and murder her. That was the most traumatizing part of my life and I don’t wish it upon my worst enemy. It kills me even more to know that I had an intuitive feeling about our neighbor not long before her death. You see, this specific person had befriended my father and his wife babysat my two sisters. She at the time was carrying their own child who turned out to be a baby girl.
I remember very distinctly the feeling this monster gave me. It wasn’t just any feeling. This was a feeling that came from a deep, dark place. A feeling that stays with you even after you leave.
It was a summer day and he had his red car pulled up in our drive way. We had a power washer at the time and my dad was helping him wash his car. My sisters were both laughing and playing around in the front seat of the car when I had walked over. I don’t remember why I went outside that day, or that moment. Probably to ask my dad something. I remember watching what was happening and feeling uneasy. I stood back and took in the image of him power washing his car. Something doesn’t feel right but why? Finally, I seen it. He was only aiming the power washer at one of my sisters. When I noticed this I looked at him and immediately felt sick to my stomach. I knew something was off about him. I was twelve. My intuition about this monster was strong. Strong enough that it shook me to the core. Strong enough that he made me feel unsafe.
I wasn’t wrong. Why didn’t anyone listen to me.
I tried to warn my dad about my feeling. I tried to tell him he wasn’t a good man. I cried when he brushed me off and told me to go away. I didn’t like this guy. The feeling stuck.
Time must have warped itself inside my mind, maybe to hide some of the pain. The moment that plays over and over in my mind. The moment where I chose to be the dismissive sister. I can’t even remember what I was doing that was so much more important. She only wanted my attention and I couldn’t even give her that. I didn’t know I would never see her again.
I was upstairs in my room when my youngest sister and cousin came home from the park. The house began to stir when they realized we were one short. Savannah had come home from the park earlier that day to ask if she could go get ice cream with the neighbor. My dad said no. We thought she went back to the park. She was a ballsy girl but we didn’t think she would go without permission. I wish she hadn’t.
The rest of the day felt like a dream. Running up and down streets, screaming her name. Amber alerts being issued. Family. Police. It all starts to blur together. When dark started to roll around and dinner passed, my baby sister Danielle made a comment that pained me. Until this day it still breaks me down. “She hasn’t had dinner yet she must be hungry” she said. At the time it was just a comment and it was thoughtful. She was only four. We didn’t know she’s already eaten her last meal. A moment we took for granted.
It got late and Savannah still wasn’t home. Neither was the neighbor. We were sent off to bed.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night by my father making the most gut wrenching noise I’ve ever heard. I ran downstairs to see a police offer standing over my father. My dad was sitting at the kitchen table sobbing into his hands. Face to his knees. He was in pain and I could tell just by how I was woken up. We were given the news and our lives were completely uprooted. We sat, numb, watching my sisters case on the TV. The monster had his way with her and left her dead in the woods. He drove back to his wife and baby that night to find the police at his home. He went with them willingly. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. Which is the most that we could have hoped for, but still. He took my sisters life before she could even become her own person and he gets to live in prison. With a bed and 3 meals a day.
After that, I completely shut down. I was in sixth grade and everyone seen the news. Rhode Island may be a small state but there are a lot of people. There was gossip, awkward silence, and people constantly staring. Kids and teachers would always approach me. They wanted to ask if it was my sister on the news and say how sorry they are. They didn’t know I had completely shut down and wasn’t actually listening to anything they were saying. I ended up building an emotional barrier like fort Knox to protect myself from the pain. I didn’t cry anymore, I didn’t follow rules, I stopped caring about school, and I just wanted to do whatever I wanted, whenever. When some of the kids at school started to notice I wouldn’t cry in front of anyone I would get bullied for it. They would say I never actually loved my sister. Can you imagine being bullied for something like that after your sister was just murdered? It wasn’t true but I was broken and vulnerable. I started skipping school a lot. When I was in school I would get detentions, ISS, and do basically anything to get suspended. Somehow I managed to make it through middle school. Most of the teachers probably felt sorry for me.
In high school I completely stopped caring about everything. What I did, said, and everything involving school. I started failing and repeating what I did in middle school but worst. I was in and out of programs and forced into seeing psychologists. There was even a time my dad sent me to a group home because he was sick of me. I had a bedroom with no lock, a tiny closet, and a small bed. I didn’t belong there and I was devastated that my dad actually sent me there. After a few days, I was so done that I hatched up a plan to try and run away while at school but that was a failed attempt. Although, it did manage to get me out of the group home and back home. I don’t remember my first interaction back home with my dad but I know it took me awhile to get over it. I went through a pretty rebellious stage.
After repeating the ninth grade multiple times I decided to drop out of school.
I moved homes a lot. I lived with my dad and grandma, my aunt, my cousin, my mom, and then one of my best friends and her parents adopted me when I was seventeen and I lived with them for awhile.
I met someone soon after that who not only became my best friend, but the person I get to share my life with. I can’t remember if it’s been seven or eight years now, but they’ve been amazing. I never would have imagined my life to turn out this way. Being able to spend everyday with my the person that’s been there for me through everything. The person who makes me belly laugh and can never say they love me enough. The person who makes me a better version of me. The person that will stay by my side despite my diagnosis. Who takes me to every appointment, gives me my meds, and takes my temperature just to make sure I’m really okay. The person who thinks of me always and loves me even when I had to chop my hair. The person who encourages me to open up and let it all out. My person ♡ CWF.
This October I was diagnosed with stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma and started chemotherapy in November. One thing for sure, is that cancer has made me very productive. I’ve done pretty well at maintaining my home life. I’ve started working on my GED again and have two out of the four tests done! It may not be much but its progress and I plan on working at completing my final two this year!(fingers crossed) I’ve also started up this blog! Which not only let’s me process my situation but also gets my experiences documented to look at in the future.
Everyday I struggle with the death of my sister, depression, and all the things that scarred me emotionally as a child. Somehow I am still here today. I may have a new battle to fight with cancer, and it won’t be easy, but it’s not the biggest battle I’ve had yet. My faith is strong and I know I’m not alone.
You aren’t either ♡