Savvy Gal Spotlight: Excerpt from “Untangle the Knots Within”
The cold snap of 2006 was a winter in Colorado I do not want to relive. The snow and ice had not melted for a record sixty days, and the winter continued its cruelty into the first of the year 2007. The Greek god Boreas, the god of the Northwind, seemed to be very angry; there seemed to be no end to his antagonism. Coloradoans had not had a long, harsh winter in Denver since the snowstorm of Christmas 1982. A winter’s chill provides plenty of time to stay within yoursoul, in isolation. You incessantly think and contemplate your past, present, and future. You ask without reservation, “Why am I here?” Then I find myself asking, “Why is she gone?”
On one of those dark winter’s nights, I decided to find a movie to watch. I have always admired Jodie Foster as an actor, as she is passionate and versatile. I clicked on a cable movie channel and found a film produced in the 1980s that she starred in with Kelly McGillis, another talented actor, titled The Accused.
It is a true story that is disturbing. In one of the first scenes, Jodie’s character was running down a street, yelling for help, with her clothes half torn off her body. She had been gang-raped at a bar just minutes before, and there were no telling
witnesses to help her. The raped woman subsequently fought in court to get the perpetrators prosecuted, with the help of her lawyer, played by McGillis. Jodie’s character had to fight for herself with the help of the attorney who believed in her. No one in the community believed Jodie’s story. The general belief in the community about what happened to Jodie’s character at that time was that she had asked for it, because of the way she was dressed and her behavior at the bar where it happened.
The movie took me back to a time when something happened to my family, a little over a week before 9/11. In those instantaneous thoughts, I had become the winter that I was experiencing. Entrapped in my own ice castle, I had ghoststo deal with in every part of my waking life.
My sister, Julie, was a quiet statistic as a questionable in police-custody death on Labor Day weekend, nine days before 9/11, when the Twin Towers disappeared into the depths of New York City. Haunted by her death, I could no longer pretend life was normal. This movie, for whatever reason, became a defining moment for me. It made me face her exit from this earth in such a brutal matter. It also made me face up to the fact that I could not or would not let it go.
After Julie died, I tried so hard to get answers through working with attorneys, the media, lawmakers—that included the governor of Colorado—and representatives from a county that I thought was internal affairs. I only found that the
unresponsiveness from the majority of agencies I contacted, and whatever the responses that were made to me, were feeble attempts to cover their own backsides, or cover the real facts, or, they did not care at the time. All of it left me feeling almost as disheartened as when I found out my sister died. I felt caught in a web of never-ending questions.
I made a promise to myself that I would not give up. Her death, for me, as pointed out by a distant acquaintance, was like a sword in a fire that would melt and yield a new sword, and it would not be like the first one. I became a different woman. I decided that writing a book would give Julie a voice, which was now silenced forever.
I believe the events that lead to her death are a possible cover-up to hide mistakes and procedures by the initial responders. At the break of dawn, on an almost fall-like holiday weekend, a security patrol, six county sheriffs, and three men from the nearby fire station found her in an unsafe and reportedly drug-infested part of town with no clothes on. She was all alone. She was undone. I believe her controversial death minimized because of where and how she appeared analogous to Jodie’s character. I believe classified as a “subhuman” on the spot by county responders that found her and treated as such to the point that she began dying in their custody within eight minutes of their response call.
About the Author
Author Cynthia M. Andersen is a Colorado native, born and bred. She taught in Liberia, West Africa for over two years in the U.S. Peace Corp during the beginnings of the bloodiest civil war in Liberian history. (Years later, the horror stories of the 11-year war have been made into numerous documentaries and movies, such as Blood Diamonds.) Since then, Cynthia classifies herself as a “Jack of all trades, and a master of none.” She taught for a short time in Ft. Worth, Tex., worked as an airline attendant, tried out as a firefighter for a suburb in Denver, Col., worked for a public pension fund, completed graduate school in business and worked in sales for a mining company. Currently, she is seeking a new journey for healing and moving forward to help others. Cynthia loves to write poetry, read, walk, jog, golf and watch movies. Of her sister’s untimely death, she says it “transformed her like a sword being made and coming out of a fire.”