There are so many parts of this post that may be triggers for readers, Please use caution if you decide to read this post. In case you don’t get to the end…it’s long…I have found much peace over this last year, or rather, peace has found me. And at the same time, I am on a lifelong journey.
También, para mis amigos/as que solo leen en español, les pido disculpas. A veces es demasiado difícil traducir todo al español. Les pido que usen algo como “google translate” para la traducción para esta entrada. Al final hay una grabacion donde leo un poema que escribio mi hijo. Un abrazo, Melissa
That day began like so many others. I don’t remember what I had in the morning. A meeting, maybe. And then I went to pick up my friend Doris who was visiting from Barcelona and we were going to Crave to meet my step-mom, Faye. When I picked up Doris we were just across the river from Chris’s place so I sent him a text to see if he wanted to join us.
He texted back: “I just ate and I …”(something like he had to do something)
And I texted back: “No worries. Next time.”
We went to lunch and later that day we had Spanish and ESL classes. I don’t remember the class so much but I talked for awhile afterward to my friend Sherri.
I had gone back to the gym in March and in April I was so close to my 12 times for my membership discount so I decided to swing by the gym and do a short workout. I never workout that late, but that day I did. It wouldn’t have made a difference, but I remember that.
I used the treadmill for maybe 30 minutes and then I headed home. I had taken my jewelry off and left it in the little tray in my car. A blue handmade necklace from Kanuga, NC, where I had gone to a great conference in September, and handmade blue earrings from a store in Minneapolis. I remember because I forgot to bring them in that night and they stayed in that same place for months.
I walked in the door at about 10:15 and Austin came to the top of the stairs and said, “By the way, the police were here and they said Chris might have gone into the Mississippi River.”
I screamed at him, and I mean screamed, “What? Why didn’t you call me? Get your clothes on. (He was ready for bed).” He said, “The police asked me for your number so I thought they called you.” They never did call me.
He got ready in about a minute and we took off in my car toward Chris’s house.
I called 911 on the way to try to figure out what was happening. We arrived at Chris’s house in NE, not far from the river. I hoped everything would be quiet.
There was a police SUV there and a few of Chris’s friends were standing outside. It was chilly that night. I was still in my gym clothes.
I asked the police what was going on. They would tell me nothing. I asked if someone was searching for Chris. I asked where they were searching. I asked where, where, where. I wouldn’t bother them. I just wanted to be wherever they thought Chris would be.
They would not tell me anything.
I called people.We called Bridgit and I started calling my family, though I didn’t want to worry anyone. It was late. My niece Hannah answered the phone. I wanted to see if her mom would wake up if she called. I didn’t want to tell Hannah. She was so close to graduating from Gustavus. But I told all of them.
I called Luis and Brian and Doris and Josue. No one answered. They were all sleeping. I called Deb and she answered and I probably yelled into the telephone what was going on. Then Josue heard my message and he and Bridgit came down. Austin called his friend Adam who came and got him and stayed with him.
The police still wouldn’t say anything.
Drew showed me where it happened, down by the electric plant and St. Anthony. They were supposed to get together that night, with Jack, too. And there was no one there. And we drove up and down the river looking for anything.
And I called the Park Police. I was told it was their jurisdiction. They were closed. No one answered. I waited awhile and finally I went home. I waited some more. Mickayla said the Sheriff had told her the search was called off until morning. So I called the Sheriff’s Department and they said to call Precinct 2. Precinct 2 said to call the Sheriff. And back and forth.
And then it was maybe 4:00 in the morning and I called Precinct 2 again. And the person who answered said, “Wait a minute I’ll transfer you.” And he got back on the phone and with a cheery voice. I thought it was someone else. And he said, “Hello!”
And I was flabbergasted and I said, “Do you know who I am and why I’m calling?” I couldn’t believe the person would transfer me without telling the person who I was. And he said, “No.”
And I said, “What is your name?”
And he said, “You know my name. You just talked to me?”
And I probably spoke quite loudly and firmly, and I said, “I need information about my son. I need to know if there is a plan.”
And he said, “If you’re going to yell at me, I’m going to hang up.”
And a friend was still with me and took the phone and he asked what was the plan, and I don’t know what the sergeant said and my friend said, “You don’t know who you’re talking to.” (That still makes me chuckle a little bit. I still don’t know exactly what he meant by that but I do know I have some amazing friends who got on their phones first thing and made some things happen).
That police officer hung up on us.
I called the Sheriff’s office again. The person who answered once again told me Precinct 2 was in charge. I told her they hung up on me. She put me on with her supervisor and he said he’d get some answers for me. First time being treated like a human being that night. I messaged a couple of friends in law enforcement. They got back to me as soon as they woke up. I got bits and pieces of what was a confusing story from the person with Chris.
Finally, about 6:30 a.m., someone from dispatch called me and explained they had been trying to ping Chris’s phone and there was nothing. It didn’t occur to me to call Chris that night. I guess instinct or something told me something different. I didn’t call his phone until the next night, and the ring sounded like a sonar. I threw down the phone and never dialed his number again, though I still have it on my phone.
In the morning, I walked down by the river over by the Guthrie. I had no idea where Chris may have gone in until later. I yelled for him.
And I waited. And I started getting phone calls from media. And I agreed to speak with them because I needed people to hear that my son was a human being who mattered. The Star-Tribune wrote what the police report said (I still have to request that)…something about a wave coming and washing these two young men into the water. One came out. The other had not yet been found. It said they climbed an 8 foot fence. Neither of these things was true.
At about 10 a.m., the water patrol supervisor, a wonderful person, called and asked me to ask people to stop calling him so he could make a plan to search for Chris. He called me in the morning and in the evening every day until they found him.
That was day 1 into day 2.
And then there was day 3 and day 4 and day 5 and day 6 and day 7 and day 8 and day 9 and day 10.
April 25th is the one year Sadivesary, Part 1. Once again, I’m writing this on the eve. The eve, I’ve found, is so hard. The changeover at midnight to the day.
I asked people on Day 2 or 3 to wear a plaid shirt for Chris, and so many people did. On the one year Sadiversary, I will wear Chris’s shirt. I have an appointment with my therapist. I’ll go down to the Mississippi in the afternoon if anyone would like to join me. Text or call or message, whatever.
I don’t know exactly what he did that day except I know he ate well, because he always did. He probably biked. I would guess he did some schoolwork or stuff with MPIRG. I know they were working through some issues. He decided to go to New Bohemia for Happy Hour. They serve $1 16 ounce beers. He drank a few.
The police have a video from his time there from the bar. He had a really good time with his friends.
He and his roommate walked down to the river where they often went, where so many of those kids used to go. They walked down the path to the observation area and climbed over a railing, across a concrete ledge and jumped down to another concrete ledge right by St. Anthony Falls. This much the police could see on video. After that they can’t see. The only one who knows what happened next is the person who was with Chris.
I have alluded to this before, but I do not believe the accounting of the person who was with Chris. There are inconsistencies in what he told the police and what he told friends. There are parts of the accounting that make no sense. As I told some of Chris’s friends, I didn’t not come to this belief quickly or capriciously or easily.
I was watching some crime show last year in June, maybe, and they talked about Occam’s Razor. Here is a pretty good definition from a web site: The most useful statement of the principle for scientists is “when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”
I want to be clear. I don’t think he did anything maliciously. I also don’t believe that he went into the river. I told the police, as a mom, I would have preferred Chris didn’t go down to sit at the edge of the river by St. Anthony Falls. I would definitely have preferred he didn’t go there after drinking.
At the same time, two young men don’t randomly fall into a river, even if they had been drinking. The police told me people have survived going over the Falls on rare occasions, but they have major injuries. They spent a lot of time trying to explain how the inexplicable could have happened. See again Occam’s Razor.
I had visions of Chris sort of flying into the river and he was shocked and confused and sort of like, “What the hell?” And I felt a negative flow of energy when the person he was with touched my arm as he was telling me the next morning how he supposedly went into the river and that he didn’t know what happened to Chris. I felt a strong current of negative energy and it was like my arm repelled. I will never forget that feeling.
I went back and looked at the area and I’m about 98% certain of how things happened, more or less. If you ever want to go take a look, I’m happy to show you.
I’ve talked with my therapist about this. I feel that Chris was a victim and that the responsibility for his death is being placed on him and this is not where the main responsibility lies.
Why is this important? Why have I shared this now? I’ve been contemplating this for many months. I know many of Chris’s friends don’t agree with me about this and this has caused rifts between us and I’m really sorry about that. But my main loyalty is to Chris’s memory and what I believe to be true. And I have tried to use my voice responsibly. Maybe I succeed to some extent with this. I don’t know, but I know I need to say it as I remember Chris. I don’t write this out of anger. I write it out of love for my beloved child.
Chris’s death, any death of a young person, doesn’t make sense to us, and it especially doesn’t make sense to young people. So if there is this result that is hard to understand, and then the story doesn’t make sense, it creates a larger gulf for people to cross on their journey toward healing. Unfortunately, the person who was with Chris is the one who has to live with the darkness that hiding brings. I hope and pray he will someday be able to come to bring to light the events of that night. First to God, then to himself, then to Austin and me, and then to his friends.
Anyway, Austin and I have talked about this, and we both see Chris giving in to the river. We see him panicked at first. But his back was broken quickly. My friends who are nurses tell me he probably felt some kind of euphoria and wouldn’t have felt the pain for long at all. There wasn’t much water in his lungs because his back was broken in a place that would have stopped all functioning of his body.
Austin and I both think he succumbed to the water and let it carry him away. And this gives us both a lot of peace.
Chris wrote this poem, #28, after his dad’s stroke. His connection to the river was such that I don’t fully comprehend it, and his acceptance of the inevitability of death helps sustain me during this time.
I believe that God is just and merciful. As I wrote a long time ago, I felt Jesus wrap me in his arms that second morning, day three, and tell me, “Don’t worry. I’m taking care of Chris. He’s okay. And I’m taking care of you, too.” I believe that Chris is in the loving arms of the resurrected Christ and that someday we will be reunited.
And today I mourn and trust in God’s promises of love and forgiveness and continued presence in our lives.
P.S. Here is a video my friend Evelia took of me translating this poem into Spanish during the time we were waiting. Aquí leo el poema de arriba con una traducción al español grabado por mi amiga Evelia durante el tiempo que esperabamos.