Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Change in Direction

Here's Bud Welch mentioned in another piece of writing, this time a story by Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, in the June 19th Huffington Post. The story is titled "Empty Arms on Father's Day."

On Father's Day we pause to acknowledge and honor the crucial role that fathers play in our families, our communities, and our nation. In the midst of the barbecues and the ceremonial exchange of ties and golf clubs, there are fathers for whom this must be the worst of times. For fathers who have lost children to homicide, it is a painful and poignant observance.

Bud Welch is a Board member of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He lost his only daughter Julie Marie when she was killed in the Oklahoma City federal office building bombing.

Bud speaks about how Julie's murder affected him: "For about the next eight months, (after the bombing) I struggled with the thought of what's going to happen to these people, how am I going to get some peace," he said.

On a daily basis, he would visit the rubble where the Murrah Building once stood. "I was in deep pain nine months after the bombing," recalled Welch. "I was drinking too much; I was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. Eventually, the hangovers were lasting all day.

"I had this anguish about what was going to happen. The trials hadn't even begun yet, and I went to asking myself, once they (the people indicted for the bombing) were tried and executed, what then? How's that going to help me? It isn't going to bring Julie back."

Bud Welch is among the most dedicated of advocates for a change in direction. He and a growing number of families -- including some who take no position on the moral value of capital punishment, and some who support it -- are saying that in a world of limited resources we must choose those policies that will best serve the needs of victims. As with anything else, there are opportunity costs that come with the death penalty.

The question for us is whether maintaining capital punishment best serves those who need our support the most - murder victims' family members.

For many, more resources devoted to compensation, counseling, solving cold cases and punishment that is more certain, are a higher priority than the death penalty.

Meanwhile, as Father's Day approaches, I am at a loss to adequately respond to what my dear colleague Bud Welch must be feeling. I can only pledge to carry on the struggle that he and so many other fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers of murder victims are waging - the struggle to create a society that gives meaning to the terrible loss they have suffered--A society that does its level best to prevent the tragedy they have suffered from befalling another--A society that places the balance of resources on helping families heal and achieve what some have called "a new normalcy" in the wake of the worst that any one of us could possibly imagine.

For Bud Welch and other fathers experiencing empty arms on Father's Day, I wish you Peace.

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