Thursday, May 17, 2007
Thoughts of fear, grief
Last week, after 25 years on Death Row in Tennessee, Philip Workman was executed.
Brought back lots of terrible memories...
My youngest brother Danny was 16ish at the time Phillip Workman robbed the Wendy’s in the Frayser neighborhood of Memphis. At that time, we lived just outside Memphis, near Shelby Forest and Danny worked at Wendy’s after school.
Danny came to live with me after our mother passed away in 1978. In 1982, at the time of the “botched armed robbery” Danny had lived with us four years and by then, we no longer remembered that he wasn’t “our” son and brother.
The first robbery on Danny’s “watch” at Wendy’s was enough to scare all of us really badly. Danny was working the late shift. The robber that night had a gun and most of the robbery that gun was pointed in Danny’s face, along with a couple of the girls working there -- Danny had his arms around them, trying to comfort and protect them, even though he told us later he was scared beyond comprehension.
Staring down the barrel of a gun is probably one of the worst things that has ever happened to him. I know hearing the story about it was almost more than “Pop” and I could stand.
Several months later, when Philip Workman robbed that same Wendy’s, thankfully, Danny wasn’t working.
Unfortunately for Memphis police officer Ronald Oliver’s family, he was.
I can still remember vividly the news reports of the robbery -- the flashing police lights in that very familiar parking lot were eerily similar to the night when Danny and his co-workers faced their armed robber.
I find that I can make no judgment on whether or not Philip Workman should or should not have been executed for the death of Officer Oliver during that robbery. This one is way too close to home.
I have found over the years that while in theory, I believe in capital punishment, in real life I find it somewhat harder to deal with the concept.
I have also thought often about how I’d feel about Philip Workman’s repeated stays of execution if Danny had been the one shot and killed that night.
However I feel about Workman and his reported fear of execution, I think I have an inkling of how Officer Oliver’s family felt.
His family probably lived with the same terror and gut-wrenching fear I felt after Danny’s encounter with an armed robber every day of Oliver’s short life.
I grieved with them at the time for Officer Oliver’s death.
I still do...
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