Losing my brother

Twenty years ago, on May 25, my brother Bill was murdered. It seems like taking to Facebook has become a small ritual of remembrance for me and my family and his friends. Because it is a whole-number anniversary and because of events in Connecticut this past year, it all feels so much closer than the two decades would indicate.

My brother and a fellow employee were felled by six bullets each. I had the unpleasant duty of identifying his body. All of the bullets were fired into his head, so they left his skull broken and his face swollen and bloated beyond recognition. Had I not been told by the police officer that it was him, I would have struggled to identify him. That image is in my thoughts every day. I’ve never met his killer, who is in prison, though I understand he is still seeking an early release. I am by nature not a vengeful person, and his existence rarely occupies my thoughts, but the destruction he delivered via a handgun and bullets has fueled my anger about the resistance to common-sense gun control ever since.

I’ve never been inspired to be graphic in my descriptions of his death before, but I have found the entire discussion about guns and background checks devoid of any real understanding of the catastrophic destruction wrought by weapons whose sole function is to kill another human being. Handguns are not for hunting, unless you are a killer like my brother’s, who stalked and hunted his two victims in the back of a restaurant and then proceeded to fire six shots into each of them. Miss Selgado, the other victim, received six shots to her abdomen.

Think about Sandy Hook for a moment. For all of the indescribable gruesomeness that occurred that day, the media and gun lobbyists have sanitized that event. The reason is simple: If the world saw what I saw twenty years ago — crushed bone and blood and a head four times its natural size on those beautiful children— they would never let Congress hide behind the morally reprehensible decision to kill background checks.

I miss my brother. I miss thinking that the world is safe for my children. I miss his laugh. I miss not being able to remember his face without seeing bullets shot through it. But I pray every day that nobody else will ever have to do what I had to do that morning and that we can come together as gun enthusiasts, hunters, and unarmed citizens and find a way to make all of our children safer. Think of my brother tomorrow if you were his friend or part of his family, or if you are just reading this because you know me through a Facebook connection. Think of everything about him that is not what I described above, because he deserves our purist memory of his life. But on May 26, honor him by writing your senator and/or congressman and put background checks back on the table.