Thirteen years ago, on this day, I was having lunch with my aunt and uncle at Olive Garden in El Paso, Texas. They were about to head home after spending the weekend in Las Cruces, where I was in my last year of college.
I got a phone call from Katie, but I sent it to voicemail because I was walking into the restaurant and I knew I would just call her back after we ate. We had plans to go to the wine festival that afternoon and I knew she was just as excited as I was. She probably wanted to discuss what we were going to wear, who else was going, and most importantly…who was driving us so we could both sample every single option our mini wine glasses could get to!
During lunch she called again. I hit ignore and joked with my family that I would call her right back. They knew Katie and how persistent she could be and we kind laughed because it was one of the many things we loved about her. We grew up together (since pre-school, if not even before) and we were both so close with each others families.
I hugged everyone goodbye and hopped back in the car for the 40 minute drive back to Cruces…and that wine fest! Called Katie back right when I got on the interstate to make the plan. She didn’t answer.
Instead, a friend of ours did. She immediately asked if I knew where Katie was. What??? What do you mean?
I was very confused.
She said Katie never came home the night before. I didn’t panic. I thought surely Katie was at her boyfriend’s house or another friends place. Not weird. Nothing to worry about. I knew they had been at a party the night before because she had asked me to join. She is probably still sleeping!! Well, we need to wake her ass up and get to the wine.
Wait, why did Katie not have her phone?? She left it at the party apparently, before she walked home.
Anyway, I got home, told my boyfriend what was going on, and he said exactly what I did about her probably just sleeping in.
Then my phone rang again. It was Liza. She asked me something about Katie. “Yeah, she’s making me late for this wine fest…how do you know all the way over in Texas???”
All of a sudden I felt sick because her tone changed when she realized I had no clue what was really going on. I hung up. My boyfriend and I ran to the car and drove two minutes to her house. It felt like an hour as I held my breath and prayed this was just a bad dream.
Unfortunately, it was more than a bad dream. It was a living nightmare. As we came around the curve on her street there were cops everywhere. And caution tape. Fucking caution tape. No. Please, no.
I jumped out before the car was even stopped and bolted. An officer stopped me very abruptly before I even got to the tape. I begged him to talk to me but he wouldn’t. I knew nothing. My heart was broken. My stomach in knots. My head searching for answers. So many feelings and so numb at the same time.
It never gets easier to get through this day. I’m always antsy about a week before, when they really start promoting the VMA’s. Yes, the MTV Video Music Awards. And no, that’s not random. Katie and I LOVED that damn award show and looked forward to it every year. The last time I saw Katie was the Thursday before her murder. Just two days before she was gone. And it was the normal “okay, talk to you later” when she left my house that night.
All I know, is I miss her all the time. I sob through the VMA’s, even when I’m entranced with a Beyonce performance and wishing with every ounce of my soul that I was her on that stage. I stop every time I hear Amazing Grace…
1. Because she, her mother, and I were put on the loud speaker as we all sang it while soaring through the air on a Sky Coaster at a theme park in San Antonio.
2. Because Katie and I continued to sing it while secretly smoking cigarettes out the hotel window that night. We were 16 and thought we were sooooooo cool and super smart by wrapping up the smoke detector with a t-shirt and hair tie.
I look at my old photos all the time and laugh at the ridiculous and amazingly silly stuff we all laughed at then. It was so much fun growing up with the people I grew up with. The memories are not only treasured, they are still shared. Our friends and families are all still very close and I know we all hold eachother a little tighter when we hug now.
And I know she’s got her arms around us too.