Wow thank you so much! I’m glad that some people are starting to notice it - it’s a weird little project and I’m kinda feeling like it’s not getting the reception I was hoping for, but I figure I’ll keep at it and hope that it maybe catches on a bit more.
Growing up a weird kid in incredibly rural upstate NY where the streets have numbers instead of names and no lines painted on them, you don’t make a ton of friends. You don’t have the benefit of having neighborhood kids to clique with - your closest neighbor might be 10+ miles away and is far more likely to be a retired gun nut libertarian with a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in his front lawn than a family with kids your age. And even then, being a girl who reads books about spaceships and runs around in the woods fantasizing about being Samus Aran is usually enough to put off conservative NYers. The only kids I spent any time around outside of school were the children of the bikers that would hang around my father’s Harley shop. All of us were weird - usually not in the ways that I was comfortable being around, like the boy with the combination mullet/rat tail who told me he could make me glow like a firefly, and when I excitedly agreed he crushed one on my arm and smeared it down my bicep, much to my bug-loving 9 year old horror. This lead to me being a fairly lonely kid.
I’m telling you this because I want you to know how much these girls meant, and still mean, to me.
When I met Amanda, we were instant friends. We wore the same frumpy hand-me-down hoodies and momjeans, we understood where each other came from and could commiserate about how broke our families were, and we would drink gallons of haterade about the pretty, popular kids at school who would sneer at us for being from poor families as we walked around the woods. Amber was two years younger than us, and pretty and a total brat. We developed one of those typical love-hate relationships that <12 year old kids do - she’d tag along with us on our trips to hang out under bridges talking about shitty classic rock even after we’d tell her to scram and she’d throw one of those I-didn’t-wanna-hang-out-with-you-guys-anyway tantrums until we’d eventually all wander off together anyway. The gap between typical sibling rivalries and the three of us talking and sharing secrets and being vulnerable with each other closed fairly rapidly as we got a little older, and Amanda became my best friend and her family was my family.
That’s a thing that happens a lot back home - we always kinda made our own families. Even though we were all destitute and struggling, labeled white trash by the rest of the community, even to the tune of parents telling their kids not to hang out around us, we’d form these unbreakable bonds between ourselves and others in the gutter with us. Most of the people I grew up calling aunt and uncle are not related to my father at all - they’re simply incredibly close friends of my parents. It’s one of the incredibly few things from that place that I keep with me.
I left home at 16, couchsurfed and graduated and ran away to the big city as fast and soon as I could. I vanished, and those who knew me understood why and were supportive, though it meant falling out of contact with a lot of people while I started over. It sucked, but there’s a gravity to that place where everyone you meet has been trying to get out for years but can’t seem to make it happen, and I was afraid of that happening to me. I had a chance to leave and I took it, and most of the people that wanted to leave still live there today.
I know this because I’ve been looking back recently, now that I’ve had a fair bit of time and distance away from it. Sleepless nights have lead to tracking people down on facebook to see how they’re doing and try and reconnect with some of the people I wish I hadn’t left behind. I found Amanda recently, though had a moment of confusion because her default profile picture was of Amber, making that bratface she used to whenever we told her we were going to go off to do cool older girl stuff and she couldn’t come, except now she was grown up. It made me smile and I sent Amanda a message and navigated over to Amber’s page to see how she was doing too, hoping to maybe see them both the next time I go back to visit family.
Amber had been beaten to death in May, her body unceremoniously dumped under a bridge.
There have been no arrests. No one knows what happened.
Have you ever seen a dead person’s social media pages after they die? A lot of them are somewhat similar - usually a family member ends up taking it over and turns it into somewhat of a memorial. Messages of condolence from friends are the most recent posts, with a few prayers thrown in from older family members. But if you scroll down far enough, like digging through sentiment sediment, you can find the last things they said before they died. Last posts are the new last words. You can remember what it’s like to talk to them, and for a moment it feels like they’re still alive.
Some of hers were “don´t worry everyone! I´m still alive and I´m not sold into the spanish sex trade!”
I talked with Amanda a bit, caught up, talked about how we both still care and think about each other all the time, and offered my condolences and wasn’t sure what to say, but everything I did didn’t feel like it was enough. What do you even say? There’s no comfort in even seeing justice - no suspects, no assurance that her killer (god, even just WRITING “her killer” makes me feel sick and want to cry and lay down) won’t do this to another girl. All I can do is offer to boost the signal and hope with all my heart that it reaches someone who might know something, anything, about what happened to Amber that night.
I’m not optimistic at this point though. Amber will have likely died for nothing, and I don’t know how to even process that.
I’ve buried friends before. When you come from a shitty background, you see friends from the same circumstances fall to drugs, crime and preventable illness. And it’s horrible. But this was the first straight up murder, with no discernible cause or reason to it. No trial, no arrest, no fight to make it… I don’t know. To make it more than just completely senseless.
I wish I’d tracked her down 6 months ago. All I can do now is try to be there for Amanda, signal boost her campaign for justice for her sister, and I guess write this. For some reason, writing about her and how much I loved her and how *wrong* it is that she was killed at age 23 seems right, like talking about her helps keep some part of her alive.
So I can’t close the tab with http://justiceforamber.org/ in it. It’s been open since I saw it. The header is a big picture of her smiling face and I just can’t bring myself to click the tiny red x. It’s too much, which makes me feel like a sentimental idiot but I don’t know what to do.
Please, go tell the people in your life that you love them. You can’t know when you might not have the chance to do it again.
Please, let *something* good come out of this senseless death of a young girl. No matter how small. Just… anything.