As Ann and I sit in the courtroom of the Buncombe County Courthouse listening to the attorneys questioning and selecting potential jurors for the trial of the man who is accused of murdering my family in nineteen forty, my mind drifts back over the past twenty four years, beginning when I was just three years of age. Today, I try, with mixed results, to recall memories of my family.
To some extent, I recall my father, a school principal and teacher, sitting at the kitchen table studying his Sunday school lesson, and I recall his smell, not a smell of shaving lotion, but a sort of a musty, but not unpleasant odor. In my mind’s eye, I can see him sitting me on his lap, with his beard rough against my skin.
Memories of my mother are of her holding me close, her softness, and her kisses, but I most remember her scent as she always smelled cinnamon sweet. And as I see her in my memories, she is in the kitchen. My last vibrant memory of her is me crawling into bed with her the morning of that last day she was alive, when she cuddled me close, kissed me, and called me her “little man”.
After my mother, I probably best remember my four-year-old sister Jessie. She was, even to a three year old, different. I knew she was special in that she often seemed to be in a world of her own, but at the same time jumping rope, playing, and singing, but even then sometimes with a blank and faraway look in her eyes.
Memories of my other brothers and sisters are not as clear, but I can see their faces and remember little things we did together.
As I sit here I think of my grandparents, both now departed, who took me into their home and raised me from a three year old until I graduated from high school and joined the Navy. They became parents to me and always treated me as their son.
I best remember that beautiful ninth-grade girl who, now my wife, sits beside me in this courtroom today, and has stood with me since I fell in love with her when we first met in nineteen fifty-one.
These twenty-four years I am remembering my growing up, falling in love, and marrying. And I think of my wife and me searching together for the men who murdered my family.
In just a few days a trial will begin and a verdict will be rendered that I hope will relieve me the trauma of this ordeal that has haunted me these twenty four years.