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The phone rang at our home in Portugal.
My husband took the call.
Silence–for what seemed like an eternity–then my husband handed me the phone, without a word.
It was our first-born son, crying.
This sounded serious. I thought, ‘I hope he didn’t accidentally hurt anyone, and that he’s alright.’
“Mom,” he said through his tears, “I’m okay, but I just wanted to let you know that I was in an accident.”
I could hear the severity of the tone in his voice. My stunned brain gradually took in his words as his story unfolded:
He was driving a bus to Canada to pick up a band for a musical tour. Accompanied by the band’s manager, a young woman I’ll call “J”, the pair had stopped for a late dinner in Chicago. Although dark, they parked the bus in a well-lit parking lot.
But even before they could disembark, an armed teenager entered the bus and demanded money. They gave it. The teen complained at the paucity of the pickings, and demanded more. When it was not forthcoming, he attempted to shoot “J”–twice. Luckily, the gun didn’t fire. The teen became angry and hit her in the head, knocking her to the floor of the bus. Blood flowed.
He then pointed the gun at my son.
As in a dream, my son saw the entire event in slow motion, perceiving the situation as surreal, and believing that the gun was a fake. Anger boiled up in him, and he pounced on the teen and pinned him to the floor.
At that point, the gun fired.
The bullet exited the side of the bus and must have passed between our son’s legs, sparing his life.
The pinned teen cried out for help to two passersby, but instead they called the police.
Apprehended and put in jail on a million dollar bail, he wound up serving several years on a simple assault and battery charge. Then he was released.
But wasn’t this a robbery, and an attempted homicide? Wasn’t this a miscarriage of justice, to let someone off so lightly for trying to kill two people?
Justice is, in this day, bewailing its plight, and Equity groaneth beneath the yoke of oppression. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 92.
There can be no doubt whatever that if the day star of justice, which the clouds of tyranny have obscured, were to shed its light upon men, the face of the earth would be completely transformed. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 219.
As the body of man needeth a garment to clothe it, so the body of mankind must needs be adorned with the mantle of justice and wisdom. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 81.
There is no force on earth that can equal in its conquering power the force of justice and wisdom…. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 219.
I told my son that God must have other plans for him, because it seemed truly a miracle that his life had been spared. I tried to stay strong for him and not show my quivering, vulnerable emotions.
I hung up the phone and sat down on the edge of the bed, stunned. In a flash, I remembered an earlier dream, perhaps a month before, in which I saw my son fly through the air during a dark night. At the time, I had a very bad feeling about that dream, and I had increased my prayers for protection for him. I felt very anxious and often nervous during that time, to the point that I fell and severly sprained my ankle. I knew something would go wrong, but not what.
Flash-forward twenty years: “J” is contacted by lawyers to ask if she and our son would like to testify against the same person—who stood accused of multiple murders in a serial killing spree.
Was the first sentence just? I don’t know the reasons for that “light” punishment–perhaps his age, his record, the current state laws. For whatever reasons, the first sentence miserably failed to deliver justice. I, unlike the parents of the people this man eventually murdered, will forever be grateful that our son’s life and that of his colleague were spared. But I hope that our system of justice can one day deliver more of what it’s named for:
O people of God! That which traineth the world is Justice, for it is upheld by two pillars, reward and punishment. These two pillars are the sources of life to the world. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 27.