Army of Mom

So this is how liberty dies ... with thunderous applause.



It may be the month of love with all that Valentine's Day nonsense, but February will always be a month of sadness for me.

It was on a Friday evening in February 1995 when many lives were impacted by evil incarnate. His name was Henry Lopez Ortiz. Fortunately (or not depending upon your point of view), he died a few years ago. No loss to the world IMHO.

Feb. 10, 1995. My baby was a few days away from being 5 months old. It was my weekend to work the evening shifts at the newspaper. We rotated who had to cover weekends. And, I got the call from the PD PIO. There was a murder.

Worse yet. It was a child. Ohmigod. It was a child.

Abuse, we usually thought. Some poor kid who had been smacked around and finally mom or dad lost it and put the poor kid out of his or her misery. Nope, not even close.

A beautiful little red-haired 10-year-old girl was murdered by her downstairs neighbor - Henry Lopez Ortiz. Her name was Julianne Powell. She was a latchkey child of a single mother.

Her mother had an early afternoon off and decided to treat herself to a matinee. Brad Pitt and Legends of the Fall. Julianne would get home a little after 3. The movie would end around 4; it would be fine.

Only it wasn't on Friday afternoon Feb. 10, 1995. Julianne wasn't home when she arrived. She knew she should be there. She called her friends, she searched the apartment complex. One of her friends said the man downstairs had knocked on Julianne's door while she was on the phone with her.

Julianne's mom - Lynn Fisher - knocked on his door to see if he had seen her. Disheveled and with a scratch on his face when he answered the door, she knew something was terribly wrong.

The police immediately honed in on him, too. After getting a search warrant, they found Julianne's raped and murdered body in Ortiz's laundry hamper that evening.

I was at the apartment complex when Lynn got the news. I still remember hearing her cries. I was out in the courtyard and I heard the wails of a mother who was just told that her sweet little angel was dead. I can still hear that anguish when I think of it.

On Wednesday, I kept thinking there was something I was forgetting. What was I forgetting on Feb. 10? No birthdays of relatives; they're all at the end of the month. What was it? I couldn't put my finger on it. I thought about Lynn, but she crosses my mind upon occasion, as does Julianne.

I covered the court system at the time of the Julianne's death and I followed everything about her case. I was there from the start. I became a part of all of it.

And, I formed a friendship with her mother. The experience hit me much harder than it would have even a year before - because now I was a mother, too. The idea of being in her situation - it left me heartsick. God, how could it happen? Why would YOU LET THIS HAPPEN?

But, like so many wonderful women I've had only passing friendships with in my life - I found her comforting me. She was and is one of the strongest women I've ever encountered in my life. She didn't give up. She didn't crawl under a rock and hide from the world. No. She fought for justice for her daughter's killer. She and I embraced after he was found guilty. That trial was moved from Midland to Amarillo because of pre-trial publicity (well, ok, it wasn't ALL me. The TV stations played a role, too!) But, I can remember many weekends caravanning back and forth following the judge in the trial and Lynn. Our three cars drove home together.

And, I forgot Feb. 10 this year. I knew something was missing. And, I forgot. How could I forget?

And, tonight, I got an email from Lynn. It was just a forwarded email. One we all get routinely from friends. But, you know, from this woman - this email - it really meant something. This is it:

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need
You have expressed.

They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with
Guidance and support,

To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.

They may seem like a godsend and they are.

They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,

This person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an

Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand..

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire
Fulfilled, their work is done.

The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

*Normally, I would get an email like this and not think twice. Yes, it is sweet when my son's former second grade teacher sends me this. Or when a high school classmate sends it. But, from Lynn, it takes on a whole other meaning. I would like to think that she has a special place for me in her memories like I have for her. And, for Julianne. I truly believe Julianne came to me in my dreams during her trial. And, I wanted to honor her and her memory. I think she'd be 26 this coming August. I think about the boyfriends she never had. The proms she never attended. The babies she'll never have.

But, she will live on in my heart. And, I'll tell people about the sweet little red-haired girl who impacted my life without ever meeting me. And, I'll tell people about her strong mother who didn't let the most horrible thing that could happen to her cause her to shut down. I don't think I have that kind of strength.

I'm not sure why I've been blessed with so many incredible women in my life. Some are there for only a season - and some are ones I've only had the most fleeting of contact with - but they have left me changed. And, I hope, improved.

God love you, Lynn. Thank you. My email response to her: I was thinking of you this week.

What else can you say?


  • At 1:49 AM, February 14, 2010, Blogger Uzz said…

    Awesome post from a truly caring soul:-)

  • At 3:32 PM, July 08, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lynn really is an incredible woman and such a joy to be around. Her strength is admirable. Thank you for this post.

  • At 9:06 PM, November 20, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My sister worked at Quintons Walk. Julianne was murdered the day before my sons second birthday. Her death impacted my sister so hard. I think she creid every single day for over a year.

  • At 4:43 PM, November 08, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My husband and i are from NM we recently found out about this little girl named Julianne. Our hearts are with everyone who was affected by this tragedy... God bless you all!


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