“I can’t not see it every day,” says Abby Maslin, 30, who looks amazing given the hell she’s been through since the August attack that nearly killed her husband.
Geography nearly always haunts the victims of violent crime and their families, especially when it happens in a home or in a beloved neighborhood. Those places become tainted by trauma.
Amid everything else — the why, the how, the realization that life will never be the same — is always the question of where now.
“That’s big for victims. For so many of them, they just can’t go back. They just can’t do it,” says Kristy Dyroff, who works for the National Organization for Victim Assistance, based in Alexandria. “And we try to help them find assistance for relocation.”
That decision is gut-wrenching for Abby Maslin. She loves Capitol Hill. As a kid growing up in Arizona, she visited her aunt and uncle in the neighborhood. She walked to Eastern Market.
After living in a hardscrabble part of Boston as newlyweds, Abby and TC promised themselves they’d pick a better neighborhood when they moved to Washington in 2009. Someplace safer.
TC trusted Abby when she told him that Capitol Hill would be perfect. “And he was like a kid in a dream when we first got here,” Abby says, “he loved it so much.”
It all shattered two months ago. TC, who just turned 30, went with some friends to a ballgame, then stopped for a drink at a neighborhood bar. On his 10-minute walk home, he was jumped in a pocket park between his condo and Eastern Market. His attackers took his credit card, his phone and life as he knew it.
He spent about eight hours fighting to survive near that park, until someone found him in the morning and called 911.
Two months ago, he was a force in the world of solar energy, giving lectures to an international audience and being quoted in the New York Times as a 20-something senior expert in a complex field.
This week, his wife made him a set of flashcards with her face on them. “ABBY” and “WIFE” is under a picture of her. He calls her “Seventeen” and “Mom,” unable to find the word “wife” in the battered part of his brain.
One of the only people he absolutely recognizes is their 2-year-old son, Jack. And, despite the brain injury helmet and the swollen face, the blind left eye and the wheelchair, Jack recognizes Dad, too.
The day before it all crashed, Abby was in her classroom at Brent Elementary School, a Capitol Hill mainstay, getting it ready for her fourth-grade class. But she never met her students.
Instead, she’s met hundreds of other people. Strangers who write to her about their own experiences with traumatic brain injury, friends who show up at all hours to feed her, to take her son for a haircut, to help her make it through another day. Acquaintances have become vital friends. Good friends have become family. She is embraced daily by arms, words, good deeds and love.