My nightmare originally began on March 31st, 2014.
My older sister, who was living across the country at the time, called me crying at 7 AM telling me to turn on any news channel in my area.
As soon as I turned on my local news, the first thing that I saw was my childhood home surrounded by police lights and caution tape.
Long story short, my father and stepmom got into an argument after having several drinks. My stepmom threatened to divorce my dad and take the farm from him, which he had owned for almost 3 decades (we all thought they were very happy and had no clue that they were having marital issues). At some point, she pulled out a handgun from the nightstand and threatened my dad. My dad responded by grabbing the shotgun in the closet next to him, which had been kept there for years because they lived on a large farm out in the country. He was the first one to shoot in the stand-off and ended up shooting downwards twice. My step-mom flat lined 4 times that night and completely lost her left leg. She survived but will have pain and issues with her leg for the rest of her life.
Everyone that knew my dad was in shock. He had nothing on his record, was an air traffic controller, and had many accomplishments. He was never a violent man and we could have never predicted that this would happen.
When the court dates began, I tried to always make it to them even though they were almost an hour away and I was working at least 40 hours a week. I felt terrible for everyone involved but quickly started to realize that I wasn’t going to be seeing my Dad anymore.
Towards the end of the court dates, I gave a speech to the court begging for leniency because he was always a good man and explained that this was a horrible accident. There were a lot of family and friends in the courtroom that I had known most of my life but they were understandably not on his side. It was one of the most stressful things I had ever done at that point.
My dad ended up getting sentenced to 44 years in prison. He was 52 years old when he got his sentence, so he was basically sentenced to life in prison that day. I took a break from college and tried to take care of my childhood home as much as possible before it got auctioned off in 2015. I had my first panic attack the first time I visited my father because I had never been in a prison before and wasn’t prepared. I also had to learn to let go of spending half of my holidays with my Dad.
I eventually became my dad's power of attorney and have learned a lot over the years. I went back to college and now only have 1 semester left until I get my bachelors degree. I try to visit him at least once a month at the prison and it has gotten a lot easier with time. The hardest part is knowing that I can never go back to my childhood home or walk down the aisle with him when I get married one day.
My stepmom is now married to another man with a missing leg and she seems to be doing very well. I hear that they met In a victims group and I am extremely happy that she survived and was able to love again. I think about her all the time and hope that she has found peace.
Talking to people about my experience with this situation has helped immensely. At first, I thought I would never get used to losing my dad the way I did, learn how to get through the challenges, or go back to college. Time and support really helped me and does heal all kinds of wounds!