Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Kevin and Tammy Epling
3,653 days or ten years; of those, 20 days stand out amongst the rest. Each February 10, we remember our joy as he came into the world and on July 16 the unimaginable sorrow as he left us. The days/months in-between have been at times flash frames and random sounds and then crystal clear moments and profound highlights.
Our idyllic world literally crumbled on July 16, 2002. We had a choice; “allow our grief to take us or to take our grief with us”, we could live among the ruins or rebuild our lives. We knew our lives would never be the same without Matt, but we had the responsibility to our daughter, our families and to ourselves to create a new “normal”. We felt something good must come from this tragedy. Looking back, we chose the right path; little did we know our journey would be played out in the public eye.
The first time we spoke about what happened to Matt and what we wanted to do was in January 2003. It was terrifying, exposing everything to strangers but we had to let others know from a parent’s perspective, there was something wrong happening in our schools and community. We pushed forward because of our love for Matt and all of the other children and parents we came to know. To safeguard the children, we needed to change the adult’s attitudes.
The last ten years has been a rollercoaster of emotions and we savored the changes that have occurred. We have seen the positive change: students standing up for one another, law enforcement officers becoming leaders in the change process, classes offered at the collegiate level and finally administrators asking “How soon can you be here?”. We’ve traveled to schools and conferences to engage students and even stood in the White House as our president spoke on this issue, using the same words we used years before. We watched as Matt’s story along with other students we’ve lost, became powerful messages of hope through theater and dance performances across America.
We found ourselves counseling other parents who had lost children and watched them become advocates in their own right. And finally, after many years, we helped pass a law to help protect our children at school. By starting the conversation on bullying and allowing students and adults to honestly confront the issue, we’ve empowered them to speak out against it. We know for a fact that talking about this issue has saved lives.
We are eternally grateful to all those who have mentored and supported us along the way. You will always hold a special place in our hearts. We will continue to advocate and strive to be better people. Yes things do change; it’s just takes far too long.
Over the course of those 3,653 days we grew, we changed, and we survived. Thanks for being along for the ride. “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World”.
Kevin & Tammy Epling