On Tuesday morning I slowly made my way out of bed after a long, sleepless night. With a knot in my belly, I deliberated about a court-appropriate outfit, hoping to look polished (but not overly polished), composed (but not overly composed) and strong (but still vulnerable). I knew I would have only a short amount of time to communicate to a group of strangers the complete and utter destruction left by the violent attack on my husband, Thomas Maslin (“TC” to friends and family), last August on Capitol Hill.
My testimony was one of the first times I have shared the events that took place in hours immediately before and after the assault on TC. Reliving those moments is like picking at an unhealed wound. Thirty minutes was not enough to convey the horror that our family has faced during the past eight months. Those who have followed my blog have a good sense of the trauma we have experienced, but the saddest, darkest moments of despair remain unwritten.
A 22-year-old man was convicted Wednesday on assault and robbery charges in the attack; a second man has pleaded guilty in the case and a third is scheduled to go on trial in July. In my testimony, I neglected to mention that the assault left TC blind in one eye. As odd as that may sound, this particular injury has been an afterthought for me, a low priority amid a list of conditions that have proved far more crippling to TC’s quality of life. I didn’t describe in detail the pneumonia that almost killed him during his early days in intensive care and that necessitated a tracheotomy, leaving TC with a glaring, deep scar on his neck and forever changing the tone and pitch of his voice. I couldn’t adequately convey what it means for TC to raise an energetic 2-year-old boy with the use of only one hand. Sitting before the court, I was suddenly struck with the image of TC throwing Jack up in the air as they splashed in the Delaware water during our family vacation last summer. How desperately I wanted to tell those jurors that my son has been robbed of so many future memories he rightfully deserved.
I didn’t get a chance to explain that the majority of marriages affected by brain injury end in divorce and that the dynamic of our relationship has been altered in unimaginable ways. I didn’t get to share many of my remaining fears — early-onset dementia, eventual total blindness, epilepsy, depression, financial ruin, etc. I didn’t get to discuss the stinging grief I feel every time a friend announces her pregnancy when my own family was broken before we had even finished growing.
I certainly didn’t get to mention my reaction to the racist, hateful and ignorant comments made by people who don’t know us or the details of the assault and who assert that TC could have avoided his savage beating if only he had been smart enough to live in Virginia, carry a gun, change his race or lock himself inside his house for a lifetime. These “solutions” are only surface-level responses to an act with deep-seated societal roots. Ignoring the fundamental causes of this atrocious act does not help prevent future instances of violence.
As one would imagine, TC and I have spent many hours contemplating how such brutality can instantly find its way into the lives of an otherwise happy, hardworking family. We recognize that the causes are complex. Socioeconomics, family life and experience all play a role. Our culture suffers from a disease of violence that crosses all racial and ethnic lines, and thus far, we have been unsuccessful in identifying a cure.
We blame the people directly responsible for this act. We blame the social trends that promote this kind of behavior. We pray for a solution and for a community that is willing to undertake the weighty task of uniting ourselves in spite of differences in race, social class, background and particular neighborhood. We do not blame the city of Washington. We certainly do not blame bans on concealed weapons. We do not hope to impose suffering or loss on others even though our own suffering and loss has been so great. We simply pray for the opportunity to go on, to rebuild, to change this world for our son, the children of these defendants and all those who will inherit this crisis in humanity.
There is indeed something very wrong with the world when a man, who worked as a consultant to solve issues related to climate change, and his wife, a public school teacher, can no longer serve as productive citizens because they have been disabled by violence. The justice we seek far surpasses the scope of the courtroom. True justice will be served in the form of safety and opportunity for all. Let us begin this work here at home, in Washington.
The writer blogs at www.abbymaslin.com.