Thursday, September 27, 2018

Letter to the Editor: Part 4: Haven, Jordan and Elijah Halstead - Scott Allen

This is the last in a series of four letters I submitted to ACN to discuss a tragic house fire in September 1999 that claimed the lives a father and three children. My hope in writing the letters is to remember these precious children and also to help raise awareness of the issues of domestic violence/intimate partner violence, mental health, and substance abuse.

I’m not sure if anyone or any group would like to create some sort of permanent campaign or memorial in honor of these children. Perhaps this series of letters will have to suffice. I don’t seek to divide people with these letters, but to bring people together to remember Haven, Jordan, and Elijah so that current and future children are spared from violence and death. Whatever intervention was needed to prevent their deaths, it was not to be. If resources or initiative were lacking at the time, it was with no malfeasance or done by wittingly putting these children in danger. I hope we can all work together, even if it’s just among neighbors, to make Amador County a safer place for everyone, particularly our children. There are wonderful people and institutions in Amador County that work very hard every day to help families deal with mental health problems, substance abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV), child custody matters, etc. The key is putting people in touch with services and encouraging them to report their or others’ suffering. I’m no savior or anyone special, but maybe something could be done that can permanently memorialize these children that can also add in some way to the current effort in Amador County to help connect people with resources that will ultimately help protect people and their families from IPV and other issues I’ve mentioned.

I hesitated to send my thoughts as letters to the editor. It’s a very sensitive subject and I’m by no means an expert on any of the issues discussed in these letters that our community/society faces. Additionally, you’d be forgiven for thinking I could have met my goal of raising awareness about these issues without bringing up such a dreadful and traumatic incident. However, I felt this compulsion to discuss Haven, Jordan, and Elijah because I wanted to connect them to a current call for action. I know the community deeply mourned these children after their deaths. I don’t mean to chastise anyone for not, for example, building a monument in memory of the children. There is no right or wrong way to remember a loved one or friend that you have lost. I know these children aren’t truly forgotten. My intent with these letters is two-fold: 1) to remember Haven, Jordan, and Elijah because what happened to them was so unfair and unspeakably sad; and, 2) to add a small voice to the chorus of people who are speaking up loudly everyday to help their fellow Amadorians who are facing the kinds of issues I’ve discussed.

If I have failed in my efforts or if I’ve grossly mischaracterized people and events in these letters, I apologize. I’ve done my best to present my opinion in a thoughtful manner and include facts, at least as I understand them. My hope is that even if my letters are riddled with inaccuracies, someone finds a tiny piece of information that can help them. My feelings about all of this aren’t important and are barely worth mentioning. The only thing that I do feel is important is that I feel it necessary to keep these children in our collective consciousness. I think their story can possibly help other couples or families dealing with hardship. If that’s not possible, perhaps you can use your own memory of lost friend or loved one to bring about change. Please understand that I’m almost 20 years late to this story. Apart from the deep sadness I feel about the loss of these children, I also feel helpless. I wanted to find a way in 2018 to help these children who died on September 14, 1999. What could I do? Not much. At least for now, writing about them was all I could think of, as misguided as that writing may be. I hope I’ve helped. If not, I am sorry.

I don’t think it’s possible to not leave the story of what happened to Haven, Jordan, and Elijah Halstead on a somber note. I’ve found that sometimes a good treatment (albeit a temporary one) for moments of sadness is music. It took years before I could develop an appreciation for so-called “Easy Listening” music. One song finally stood out to me in adulthood, and that is James Taylor’s “Shower The People.” The lyrics and meaning are simplistic and idealistic. But they speak to the absolute necessity for people, especially families and friends, to never stop sharing their love for each other. And to me, love is protection. We can’t protect Haven, Jordan, and Elijah, but we can work to protect our children today in 2018 and in the future. Life, marriage, and family can be complicated and difficult, but we should always be able to take refuge in each other’s love, especially, and always, children. I want to leave everyone with a simple reminder courtesy of James Taylor:

“…Oh, father and mother, sister and brother
If it feels nice, don't think twice

Just shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things are gonna work out fine if you only will
Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way you feel
Things are gonna be much better if you only will

You can run but you cannot hide
This is widely known
And what you plan to do with your foolish pride
When you're all by yourself alone
Once you tell somebody the way that you feel
You can feel it beginning to ease
I think it's true what they say about the squeaky wheel
Always getting the grease.

Better to shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things are gonna be just fine if you only will
Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things are gonna be much better if you only will…”

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