We never fixed the aluminum door frame. Every time we opened the door to that gas station we saw the bullet hole in its frame. I guess that’s the only one that missed my uncle. My father had bought the gas station from his brother’s grieving wife when I was a young boy growing up in St. Thomas Virgin Islands.
Three more significantly tragic shootings happened there before our family sold the business.
Two employees were shot (one of whom was another uncle). They survived. After days of police investigation and after they returned the station’s monies from that night, I vividly recall as a young teen, peeling the sticky and blood stained bills from each other as my father and I prepared that bloody bank deposit. There was a distinct scent that I remember to this day.
The last of the three shootings happened on March 23, 2001; my father was the victim this time.
I remember where I was when I heard the news (a friends house in New York), what I felt (numb) and what I thought (not again). I flew back home to witness my father’s bullet-riddled truck parked at our house. I traced the bullet holes with my fingers, from the rear by the gas tank up to the front driver’s door.
One bullet. One leg. One main vein. Amputee. I’ve never seen my father not as superman.
I found out who did it (word travels) and was surprised because the kid knew us. The story that night goes like this:
Three kids in black masks run up to my father as he’s closing the station but my father sees them and runs to his truck and is pulling away. They, realizing a lost opportunity, opened fire on the truck. My father’s truck sputters to a halt a few yards from where he pulled off.
My surprise was not in the fact that they tried to rob him (for whatever reason I get it…don’t ask). My problem was why, when they saw that their plan didn’t work out, would they open fire on a guy that they actually know. That was my question. My next thoughts were, “What is the government doing to help give people hope?” and “What can I do to help folk make stronger choices?”
My path? Psychology. I went back to college to finish my Psychology degree, then I wrote a plan down in my journal.
- I want to work with kids from the ages of 6-13.
- I want to work with kids from the ages of 13-18.
- I want to get my degree in performance psychology.
- I want to work with young adults from the ages of 18-25.
I wanted to understand and experience how youth behaved and thought, and in the same order that I wrote those goals down, that’s exactly what has happened in my life.
Then something happened in 2010. My father was showing increasing weaknesses throughout his body so we took him to Cleveland Clinic in Florida and on May 21, 2010, after he had some blood tests, he was immediately admitted into the ER – failing kidneys. Prognosis, dialysis. I couldn’t help but feel like maybe if he were a bit more mobile and his livelihood wasn’t snatched away by a young kid’s risky behavior that this couldn’t happen. But I’m not a doctor.
He was also suffering from chronic nerve pain. To this moment, 16 years later, he still suffers from phantom pains in his invisible leg and pains shooting throughout his shoulder. As far as his dialysis goes, I helped out with that. I gave him one of my kidneys.
Fast forward.>>>>>September 2017
The Caribbean and specifically for me, St. Thomas Virgin Islands got hit with two major hurricanes – Irma & Maria. There’s no electricity, and almost every roof on the island that is still up, is leaking. Such is the case with my parents. My issue? My father is still having major nerve pain, hip pain and is essentially immobile. So who has to clean up all the debris, mop up all the water, draw buckets of water out of our cistern daily, go to find food day to day, get prescriptions filled and be the sole caretaker?
My 72 year old mom.
When I talk with her, at times, she randomly breaks down repeating “It’s just hard. You don’t understand.“
That right there is the true cost of gun violence; the part that you don’t see years later when another experience pops up that would’ve been easier if both people were fully physically healthy.
Our experience of gun violence isn’t close to the disastrous outcomes that I’ve read about for other family’s, but it’s ours.
And I promised myself to find a way to help young kids understand themselves better and make better decisions. My journey took me about 16 years of academic studying and experiential learning. What I’ve come up with to help young kids learn self-awareness and their own power of personal development is a model I call The Core FOUR. I’ve found it to be easy to remember and extremely easy to teach.
This is more than a business to me. This story is my why. It’s not about money for me, or fame; it’s about my form of vengeance. This is not a business plan, it’s a building plan.
My mission is to give assistance AND ask for help from the institution that impacts our communities most – sports. Sport is a consistent and strong influencer of youth, so if I impact sport with what I have to give, I impact youth.
How much do I believe that learning this model could help a kid develop stronger mentally? I STAKE MY LIFE ON IT.
I would stand in front of that gun that was pointing at my father. And if that kid had access to The Core FOUR from a young age and was still able to pull that trigger, then at least I died daring to help humanity greatly, and my father gets to help my mom through the hard times right now. That’s where I’m at with it.
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