I arrived home this afternoon and I'm really happy to be here. Oklahoma is so different from here, and from the people to the topography, it is nothing like home. When I left, Howard County was picking up the pieces after the Mall shooting. Being away took away some of the sting. I read through a number of local blogs to catch up and saw how much the community is still grieving.
I did not grow up in Howard County. I'm a Prince George's County boy, born and bred. My parents moved to Riverdale shortly after I was born, but needed a bigger house not too long after when my sister was born. So we moved to Upper Marlboro when I was 4. We settled into the community and lived there for the next 20 years. It was a great place to grow up. I'm sure Howard County was much like it. I loved my childhood. I had great friends, great schools, and a great neighborhood.
As I've documented here, my grandparents were killed in a car accident in 1987, and their deaths had a dramatic affect on my family. My mother really struggled with losing her parents. She needed a change. A major life change. She and Dad decided to begin looking at new homes. I was a (commuter) student at the University of Maryland in College Park, and even though I was still living at home, I was in favor of the move. My sister and brother weren't quite as enthusiastic, especially since it would result in them leaving the only home they had ever known (or could remember), and all of their friends. Mom & Dad targeted southern Howard County. The Scaggsville area reminded us of the community we would be leaving in Upper Marlboro, which was a cross of suburban and rural and cozy. They found a neighborhood just off of Rt. 216 just west of I-95, and began having a house built.
Over the next several months, my parents would make trips out to Scaggsville to see how the house was coming along. I made several trips, myself, since I could get there more quickly after classes at Maryland. At one point, though, shortly after the foundation was poured, we noticed how steep the backyard was. This was a problem. Fill dirt had caused it to be practically unusable. My father was livid, and complained to the builder. The builder assured us that they could level it off so it wouldn't be as steep. Soon, though, it became obvious that nothing could be done about it, and my parents again went to the builder and issued an ultimatum: fix the backyard, or the deal was off. The builder had not been truthful from the beginning, and they finally admitted it. The deal was off, and we did not move. It was a tough situation to deal with. We had all reached the point where we were either happy with the move, or had accepted it, and now it wasn't happening. Four years later, my parents did move, this time to Bowie, MD.
I met and married Teresa in 1999. She was a teacher... in Howard County. She taught Freshman English and a public speaking elective, and was a very popular teacher at Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City. A few years after we married, we bought our first house, also in Howard County. Ironically, it was only a few miles away from the neighborhood where my parents almost bought their house. When Reservoir High School was constructed, Teresa was one of the first teachers recruited to teach there. The fact that it was right down the street was perfect. It was a tough move for her, but she was excited to be a part of starting something new. The school opened in the Fall of 2002.
We loved living in Howard County. Teresa wanted her children to go to Howard County schools, which she believed were the best in the state. I had always like Howard County, and since I had almost become a resident back in 1988, it was nice to finally finish that process and settle here. Teresa stopped working after our daughter, Melody, was born in 2003. Unfortunately, Teresa died of a massive heart attack on April 17, 2004, while we were all walking around outside Reservoir on a particularly warm Spring evening.
The community rallied behind us. Mt. Hebron staff brought diapers and food, and Reservoir started a memorial fund which eventually became a scholarship in Teresa's name, and would be offered to one student each year that best exemplified what Teresa's definition of a well-rounded student should be. Grace Community Church, aptly named, hosted her memorial service. Grace would build a new church building just a few years later in the same area as the school. We had started attending Grace in the Summer of 2003 based on the reputation the church had in the community. Teresa, as a high school teacher, could see the affect Grace had on the students who attended and were active in the youth program there. Teresa, armed with that information, was convinced Grace would be a great place for us to worship, and so it was. I consider us so fortunate to have a church community like Grace's for my daughter to be a part of.
I've now lived here in Howard County for almost 13 years, and it's very likely I will surpass the 24 years I lived in Prince George's County. There's a sense of pride that has developed in me since moving to Howard, and I'm happy to call it home. It's my community. It's my daughter's community. And when tragedies occur in our community, it hurts. So we look forward to being a part of the healing process that our community will go through and overcome. This is home. And we love our home.
Have a great evening, everyone.