By Jason Menard
While I’ve found I have no interest in reading about the details behind the ultimate price Tori Stafford paid, I do realize that I owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Today marked the start of the Tori Stafford murder trial. The Crown began delivering its opening statements – and you could follow along for up-to-the-minute coverage in any number of ways. Local radio, television, and newspapers have dispatched reporters to the scene.
There are dedicated Twitter feeds bringing every allowable statement, piece of evidence, and observation from inside the courtroom – actually, more accurately the overflow room.
I believe in freedom of the press. I believe in a public’s right to know. But sometimes I wonder why the public should even want to know. And, personally, I just can’t bring myself to read it. I can’t begrudge those who are interested in the legal process for watching this trial; I most certainly can’t criticize those who are following the trial to ensure that justice is done; and I can’t even find it in myself to condemn those who are following this trail for nothing more than voyeuristic reasons.
I also can’t bring myself to participate. I don’t want to know the details; I don’t want to hear the hows and the whys. All I want to know is that justice is served and the senseless abuse, violation, and murder of a little girl will not go unpunished.
Rodney Stafford is right. His daughter’s name should be better known than that of her accused. But that’s not the world we live in. We know the Charles Mansons, Ted Bundys, and Marc Lepines. The victims become footnotes in their stories. It is for that reason I’ve chosen not to publish Lepine’s name when discussing the Montreal Massacre in the past. And it’s for that reason that I will not publish the name of the accused here.
Rodney Stafford is also wrong. Tori is not in danger of being forgotten. Yes, her name made fade from our memories, but her story and how it has impacted all of us is forever ingrained in our day-to-day lives.
The reason I have such a hard time reading the details of the case is because I can see Tori every time I go home. At the time of her murder, Tori was eight; my daughter, at the time of Tori’s murder, was six months away from turning eight. Tori was murdered wearing only a Hannah Montana T-shirt; at the time, Hannah Montana was a regular part of my daughter’s wardrobe. Tori’s favourite colour was purple; it is also one of my daughter’s co-favourites.
But for a simple matter of geography, timing, opportunity, or fate, Tori could have been my daughter. Just like she could have been any number of people’s daughters. And that’s why it’s so hard to follow the trial.
It’s the greatest fear we have as parents – something happening to our children and losing them forever. We do our best to street-proof our kids, teach them how to avoid danger and protect themselves, but mistakes happen. Tragically, some mistakes you don’t get to learn from.
I don’t know if this can offer Rodney Stafford any solace, but his daughter will not be forgotten. Tori’s spirit lives on each time we hug our children a little tighter. Tori’s spirit lives on is the lessons we try to teach our children and the conversations we’ve insisted on having since that tragic day. It lives on in those children who have now learned that it’s not just men who are the bad guys and that you have to be vigilant at all times.
Tori’s memory lives on in each and every child who, as a result of these lessons or their own experience learning about Tori’s death, has avoided a potentially harmful situation or has listened to that odd feeling in his or her stomach. It’s impossible to say how many abductions have been avoided because of those lessons and conversations. But even if it’s only one, then Tori will never be forgotten.
I do know that every time I see my daughter – who, unlike Tori, has since seen her ninth and 10th birthdays – I owe Tori a debt of gratitude for reminding me how important those messages are.