“From that day until now, I’m still in disbelief. I just feel like he’s away. He’s away. I mean, in actuality, I know that he’s not coming back.” Sybrina Fulton told me over a seafood lunch in Maryland on Friday. “I’ve had people to die, pass away in my family. But the level that I’ve gone through with this is just, it just surpasses everything that I’ve been through. Not only because it was a sudden death. It was a minor. It was a teenager. It was a, you know, it was my baby.”
Her baby was Trayvon Martin.
One year ago tomorrow, the 17-year-old was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in the gated Retreat at Twin Lakes community in Sanford, Fla. He was staying there with his father’s girlfriend while on suspension from his Miami high school after being found with an empty marijuana baggie.
“I never said he was perfect, but he was mine,” Fulton said.
Trayvon was walking back from a 7-Eleven wearing a hoodie in the rain after 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 when he caught Zimmerman’s eye. “Hey, we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy,” he told the dispatcher on the non-emergency line of the Sanford Police Department. “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.” Zimmerman, armed with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, pursued Trayvon. “Are you following him?” the dispatcher asked. When Zimmerman replied, “Yes,” the officer on the other end of the phone advised, “We don’t need you to do that.”
A scuffle ensued. Screams for help could be heard on several calls to 911, as well as a single gunshot. Trayvon was found with only an iced tea and a bag of Skittles.
Fulton was in Maryland to attend a performance of “We Won’t Let You Fall,” a play written by Crystal Adair, a teacher at the Heritage Christian Academy at Mount Calvary Baptist Church of Lanham. At the suggestion of one of her students, Adair invited Fulton, whose grace in grief has made her a role model for millions touched by the horror of gun violence.
“I just believe that God is using me to inspire other people,” Fulton said during an interview attended by her attorney Benjamin Crump, church administrator Michael Hunter and Adair. “[I]f you had told me a year ago that something would have happened to one of my boys, I probably would have said I would have lost my mind.
“But God gives me the strength because I don’t think that I’m so special that I could do it myself,” Fulton continued. “He’s helping me to stand. He’s helping me to speak. He’s helping me to present my case to the world. So, I’m just being obedient to what He’s telling me.”
The case Fulton and attorney Crump are presenting to the world calls for Zimmerman to be held accountable for the death of her son. That he is facing trial is a victory all by itself considering he was sent home without being charged hours after killing Trayvon. Police and the city manager would cite Florida’s insane “stand your ground” law’s immunity from prosecution provision for releasing Zimmerman. He turned himself in 59 days later and was charged with second-degree murder by state prosecutors on April 11.
“[T]hat was sad that they had a young man, a teenager that was on the ground dead and the person who shot him and killed him admitted it and still went home to his bed,” Fulton said. “ I think it was more disgusting for me to know that he wasn’t arrested….Right now, I feel we are on the right track. We have the arrest. Now we need to have the criminal trial and hopefully somebody is [held] accountable for what they’ve done.”
The trial is set for June 10.