Recalling a child
robbed of a life
I only met Vika once; it was a late October afternoon in 2001, at my daughter Kylee’s seventh birthday party at the Cinemark movie theater in Scranton. Vika was in my daughter’s first grade class at Kistler Elementary School. For my daughter’s birthday gift, Vika gave my daughter a one-inch glass rabbit. That rabbit still sits on Kylee’s dresser. Elana Herring, Vika’s mother and an acquaintance, came with Vika to the party. They sat in the cafe drinking a coffee while keeping an eye on her daughter. With broken English, Ms. Herring thanked my wife for inviting her and her daughter and for including her in our celebration.
Vika called our house on several occasions as she got to know my daughter. In early December of that same year, Vika called to ask if my daughter could go with her to see the Russian Ballet at the Kirby Center. In Vika’s innocent way, she then proceeded to try and convince me that they should see this dance recital. She was beaming with national pride. Vika tried to convince me that I should pay for Kylee’s ticket and hers. I told her that I would have to check with her mother and would get back to her.
I never had the chance. that was the last time I talked to Vika. She and her mother were horrifically murdered on Dec. 7, 2001. At this time, shivers traveled through south Wilkes-Barre and there was a great void in our community. At a time like this, we truly appreciated every thread that made up the community and respected every role.
Superintendent Jeffrey Namey provided resources from the Wilkes-Barre Area School District to help the school community cope with such a devastating loss. The first grade teachers, especially Mrs. Jane Gregg, had to deal with every teacher’s worst nightmare: The death of a student. Compounding this was the age and the brutality of the event. Mrs. Gregg’s kind guidance aided the student’s through this experience and helped them through their primary years. The Wilkes Barre police endured the horrific sight at the crime scene and apprehended the person responsible. The Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office brought the individual to justice and held him accountable for his decisions and actions. The parents of the students who were Vika’s classmates and friends had to try to comfort their children, who didn’t quite understand what was going on.
Personally, my family had to extend a special thank you to our Monsignor John Callahan, pastor emeritus of St. Therese Church, who on Christmas Eve took an hour out of his busy schedule to talk to a seven-year-old about how God would allow such an atrocity. The conversation, which would rival any Theologian Doctoral Oral Exam, was appreciated by my wife and I. The beloved Monsignor explained that one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind was the “gift of free will,” the individual’s freedom of choosing right from wrong, good from evil. He related how an individual decision like this or a person’s every day decision such a child’s taking a test and looking at a peer’s test, is a decision by an individual, a decision of free will, a decision of choice.
Isn’t it ironic that such an easy concept to a first grader can be confused by teenagers and adults?
Last week Vika’s first grade class graduated from high school. As I drank my coffee at the kitchen table, reading the names of the graduates, I reminisced on accomplishments my daughter and her friends achieved during their school years and the milestones along the way. I took a moment to reflect and say a prayer for Vika and her mom who never got to:
Learn to swim in the third grade swim program.
Play the recorder in the fourth grade spring concert.
Participate in field day.
Go on the sixth grade outing to an amusement park.
Take the PSSA tests.
Walk through the historic Wilkes-Barre high schools.
Change classes with new students.
Step to the starting line for a track meet.
Find out what happened to Harry Potter.
Stand up and give a speech.
Sing “Steadfast Forever,” “Wave the Blue and Red,” “Sons of the Blue and Grey,” or any other high school alma mater.
Skip school on her 16th birthday to take her driver’s permit test.
Say no to a cigarette.
Take the SATS.
Attend a high school football game.
Sit in the back seat of a car with friends, singing Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night”, Taylor Swift’s “22”, Nikki Minaj’s “Super Bass” or even Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
Slow dance at prom.
Turn her tassel with the rest of her graduating class.
Finally, Vika never did get to see that Russian Ballet of the Nutcracker, either. Know Vika, that we always knew you were watching from afar, from above, and that for every pink flower that bloomed on your tree at Kistler Elementary, you were complimenting and applauding your class of 2013’s firsts. Her memory stands as a constant reminder to seize each day entirely with love, to truly appreciate each first, each milestone, each mistake. Her memory is a glistening hope, to never stop dreaming, never stop smiling, never stop loving. Vika will always be missed, but her beautiful face and smile will never be forgotten.
Higher gas tax
is wrong solution
Unquestionably, Pennsylvania’s bridges, roads and other infrastructure are badly in need of improvements, but is should not be funded by increasing the gas tax. Why not?
The gas tax is an aggressive tax that would place the greatest burden for paying for renovating the state’s infrastructure on the shoulders of working class Americans who were NOT responsible for the deterioration of the bridges and roads and who can afford it the least.
It’s no secret the destruction of the state’s infrastructure was caused by the increased weight limit and size of corporate trucks. It’s also no secret that the business community is pushing for new roads that will save time and increase their profits.
It’s also no secret that corporations don‘t want to pay for improved or new infrastructure and will gladly support increasing a tax that can be written off as an expense that won’t affect their bottom line.
So, what’s a better solution for funding infrastructure improvements? Unfortunately, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a progressive income tax so the alternative is to raise the state’s personal flat-rate income tax and the tax on corporate profits.
That won’t affect out-of-state users, but they wouldn’t buy our higher-priced gas either. So, fix Pennsylvania’s infrastructure, but don’t raise the tax.
Tallying up reasons to distrust Obama
Remember Watergate? Welcome to Obamagates.
Remember transparency? He ran on that first term, too.
Eric Holder – wire tapping reporters. Benghazi - four Americans killed. IRS – targeting conservative groups, religious, family values, pro-life Tea Party, Patriots, etc.
Shulman, commissioner of IRS at that time, visited the White House 157 times. Why? And the IRS is going to control our health care? All this done before Obama’s re-election. Hello!
Last term: new Panthers intimidating voters and Fast and Furious. Don’t tell me Obama didn’t know about these things happening on his watch. What, as president, is he being paid for? Oh, yeah, golfing, campaigning, vacationing, playing basketball and partying with celebrities.
This administration is the most corrupt one I’ve ever seen. We get no honest answers at all. But, as Hillary said ‘What difference does it make now.” A lot of difference. How can we trust our government anymore?
If you people don’t know what these scandals are all about, change your channel to Fox News and learn. You will learn a lot more than you realize, more than you will from those cable news stations that give passes to Obama all the time.
We’re slowly losing our freedoms. These scandals fall for impeachment. Obama may be like-able, but I rather an honest president.
Pray for America.