Three years ago my friend Julie was murdered. A low-level drug dealer held her down while women who were loyal to him beat her to death.
It was three days after the Dallas police shooting downtown. No police officers were called to the scene, only an ambulance that took her away. There is no police report from that night, no eye witnesses were interviewed. Even though it happened at dusk and at least twenty people witnessed the beating that led to her death.
Finally, after some time, one brave soul went to her body, dragged it across the street, trying to help her. For months after, Styrofoam-cups were pushed into the chain-link fence to create a cross, placed there by those who watched her be beaten to mark the place of her death.
For weeks and months after, people would approach me quietly in the neighborhood, asking why I had not gotten justice for Julie.
A friend on the streets who was an eyewitness agreed to meet with detectives and tell them what she saw that evening. Others were afraid to even talk openly about seeing it because that same drug dealer who held her down still roamed (and roams) the neighborhood.
No one knew where they had taken her body. I called the Medical Examiner’s office to try to see if it was there. Multiple times on multiple days, they told me “no black woman has been brought in.” And “no one fits her description.”
So we went to Baylor, the closest hospital and where she would have been taken if she were alive. We spent time in the basement of the hospital trying to figure out if she was, or had been there. No dice.
Finally, three days after she was beaten, her fingerprints identified her. I learned that someone in the Medical Examiner’s office had put her into the computer as “white” instead of “black,” so when we called she was a Jane Doe who did not fit the description of our friend Julie.
I miss her still. Her goofy grin, silly laugh. How she would sneak up behind me to scare me like we were still kids. How she always, always tried to make me laugh. Julie was a true friend. She saw me, she understood me.
She knew that I can sometimes be serious and that getting me to laughter was a good thing, one of the best things. Losing a friend who sees us and knows us is tough stuff. Some of the toughest stuff in life.
I wish I could do more. I wish we could have helped work justice for Julie. One of the things we do is feel the helplessness of a broken system alongside our friends on the streets. We often feel powerless to make things better or get justice.
So the best we can do is be with them and let them be with us in our grief. Just today, Lois and I reminisced on Julie. We smiled and we laughed and we talked about our friend, the one we love and we miss.
Julie, I love you and miss you. I wish I could do more on your behalf. See you again one day.