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Graf: An open letter to Jordan Davis

BY L.C. GRAF | FEBRUARY 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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When you were 13, you learned that the world was not fair. You learned and memorized all those social codes about listening instead of talking. When you were 13, you learned that the people around you could not always protect you and that the people who never smiled back from the other side of the cash register were not just grumpy, or tired, or sick, but they were sad and angry in their hearts. When you were 13, you learned about violence.

And when you were 16, you forgot. Or maybe you didn’t, and instead of forgetting, you decided to be optimistic, and maybe you thought that because you lived a good life, you wouldn’t experience so much disappointment. When you were 16, you had friends and homework and went home to a three-story house in a cul-de-sac and would eat so much food that your mother would always complain.

When you were 16, you were strong and you would speak for yourself and you would take action and you tried your very best.

The list of things you had:
1. Nice watch that your grandmother gave you
2. New laptop that you were supposed to use for homework but instead used for YouTube videos
3. Four pairs of dress shoes because your mother wanted you to know how to be a gentleman
4. Too many hoodies, hats, and video games for anyone to keep count of
5. Embarrassing photos of when you were just a “shy little kid”

When you were 16 you did not realize that a year later, all of these things would be packed away as your parents cried, or stared blankly, or waited for you to come back. But you will not come back. You will not have an 18th birthday party.

But on your 18th birthday, you would have jokingly at first, resisted your mom’s urge to kiss your cheeks into oblivion. If you were 18, you would have tried to play the lottery at your graduation. If you were 18, your college application would make you itch, and waiting for that big fat envelope to come in the mail would drive you insane. If you were 18, you’d try to persuade your mom to let you decorate your cap and gown (she more than likely would have said no).

By the time you turned 21, maybe you would have felt like you were 35. Your mother’s bid against cancer could have gotten you more involved in science. You would have tried to find the cure. More than likely, you would have given up on science and gone into fundraising and helping the people around you now because that’s what you always did. You helped your friends and family first, in whatever way, as soon as possible.

Any research you did in college would have gotten you into graduate school or maybe landed you a job closer to home. A good job, a job that your dad will always tell his friends about.

I don’t know.

I don’t know what you would have done, or who you were.

And I’m sorry.

I don’t know if you ever got embarrassingly sick on the highest roller coaster in the country or if you ever took a trip with just you and your friends down to the beach. Did you ever skip a week of school just to sleep? Did you know what it was like to pull off an all-nighter and get an A on that test? How many movies did you not see? How many flavors of ice cream did you not get to taste? I take all of these things for granted. But these are things that I remember the most.

You were very strong. You were very smart. You were just like me, the boys across the hall, the ones down the street. But you were only 17.


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