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Life out here by Bret Kofford: Pleasr, please feel their pain

March 13, 2002

A big controversy erupted in San Diego last week regarding people associated withhelping Danielle van Dam's family moving memorials from the site where her body was found to a site established for memorials in a park close to her home.

Some people who had contributed to the makeshift shrine at the site where the body was found were angry that their memorials had been relocated. They said they needed their own place to mourn and wanted a memorial at the site where the body was found, in their Dehesa area of San Diego. And they were angry that anyone might try to take away their site.

"They had no right to do this," said Rose Cady of those who moved the memorials.

"How dare they?" said Cindy Moore, another person angry about the removal.

How dare they? How dare you? How dare you make a big stink about something so minor when a little girl was murdered? How dare you be so selfish? How dare you take what had once been a nice gesture in establishing the shrine and make it into an ugly, nasty mess?


I have lost people, including young people, close to me. It hurts down to the bone to lose the ones you love, particularly when their lives are cut so short.

Those who say things about the van Dams like, "Their loss is our loss" and other such psychobabble are full of crap, and self-important crap at that. Unless they have lost a child, I would surmise they have no idea of the pain of the van Dams.

I know if I lost my child I would have a hard time going on. Under a similar scenario, I would be eternally grateful to all the volunteers who actually helped and all the police who worked on solving the case, and I would let them know of my gratitude.

Then I would track down and kill the person who hurt him. (I may think the death penalty being imposed by the state is barbaric and sends the wrong message, but I have decidedly mixed feelings about personal vengeance, particularly my own.) I am just projecting, but I think the pain of losing one's child would be unbearable. The van Dams know that pain without projecting.

"Our hope is that those who wish to pay respect to Danielle's memory do it at a place where she often played," said a statement on the van Dam's family's Web site regarding the memorial at the neighborhood park. ‘We want to celebrate her life above all else."

That is the way it should be, celebrating the life of this reportedly joyous little girl. And if the van Dams, these poor, broken people, want the memorials in a park where their sweet little girl loved life, and not where she was found dead, who are a bunch of strangers to throw fits?

Well, these are who they are.

"Nothing will ever change that her body was dumped in this spot," Moore said, charmingly.

Added Linda Morgan, another contributor to the Dehesa memorial, "I know the parents don't want it left here but this is part of her life. This is where I want my stuff to be."

Could any people ever be more self-involved? When the parents of the dead little girl are dying inside, do they need to hear about the priorities for "stuff" of some self-serving others? Are people's lives so empty that they have to latch onto the pain of others to truly feel things?

(The van Dams, after the stink arose, asked the volunteers helping them to just leave the memorials at the Dehesa site.)

I don't need to grab onto sadly public events to feel genuine emotion. I have plenty in my life to test all my emotions, and every hue within those emotions.

Maybe I am strange, but when I see something like what happened to Danielle, I become more insular. I hurt on the inside that someone could do something so heinous to someone so precious.

Then I become vigilant: vigilant to see bad guys go to jail and stay there, vigilant that we need to do something about the things that create monsters who hurt the innocent, and even the less than innocent, vigilant to keep anyone who I have an inkling might have any such perversions away from my family.

I hope I would never do something like hassle the family because my memorials have been taken down. I hope I would never talk about my own "pain" in such horrid circumstances.

I often wish this paper had more distribution in San Diego County. I do in this case because this is the message I would send to those people moaning about their memorials to Danielle being moved:

In the big scheme of things regarding this heartbreaking story, no one gives a rip about your "pain" and your "stuff" being moved.

So shut up about it.

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