There appeared to be nothing left for us to do but to wait. We had to wait on the appeal process and it certainly wasn’t looking good. We also had to wait on the appropriations committee to find the money or I should say to find the wisdom to fund the Ricky Ray Bill.
We were back home trying to pick up the pieces and lead a normal life for Jennifer. Jenn was in a Catholic High School. She transferred from another Catholic school for only girls to a Catholic school with boys and girls. She was much happier at the new school. Jennifer started to have problems with a group of kids at school. First someone keyed the word AIDS on the door of her car. There was no warning and it didn't happen on the school campus. We figured it had to be someone at her school who knew about us. We notified the school of the off campus incident and they could only document what had happened. Later she had problems with two of her classmates on the highway. When she started home they would make sure to leave before she did. When they saw her behind them they would slow down. When she would try to pass, they would block her way. Again we notified the principle and he was totally useless. I told Jenn if it happened again we were going to call the police.
I came home from work one day and Jenn’s car was there along with her friend’s car. I walked in and she was sitting on the couch and she had been crying. My question was, "What happened to you?” “Did you get in an accident?”
No, she told me. She had been attacked in the parking lot at school. “What do you mean attacked?” “Two girls beat me up.” “Are you ok?” “Yes I am fine.” I said, "No you are not." A large piece of skin was removed above her eye on her eye brow. She had been bleeding.
A section of her hair had been pulled from her head. I was scared because we were not sure of her condition and I was angry. I wanted to know exactly what had happened.
She said, “When I got to my car two girls were waiting for me.” Did you know them?" "Yes, it was two girls from my school." Go on, then what happened?" I told them to get out of my way, I want to get in my car and go home. As I approached the door one girl said, 'You are not getting in your car.' I said, Yes, I am. I made a move to get in the car and one of the girls grabbed my hair and threw me down to the concrete. The first time she kicks me she said you AIDS Whore and kicked me again, then said this is for your little dead AIDS infected brother and kicks me again. "After that I wasn’t sure what happened. Someone made them stop."
What did the teachers and the principle do? They were not there; no one was in the parking lot. There were no teachers or principle to help me or stop them. One of my friends brought me inside the school. Someone gave me ice to put on my head. They called Mom but told her I was ok. Then they let my friend and I drive home. I asked again, how do you feel? She said her head was hurting. I told Karen, "Let’s go, we are taking her to the hospital."
On the way to the hospital I asked Jenn again how she was feeling. She said she felt ok. There was an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sub-Station on the way to the hospital. I asked Jenn if she felt good enough to stop and press charges against the girls before we proceeded to the hospital. She said it would be alright. We went in and told the Deputy what had happened. He was amazed that no report had been filed. He filed an arrest report and called for the girl to be picked up and arrested. I told him we couldn’t wait. We had to go to the hospital to get Jenn checked out.
The ER admitted Jenn and ran X-rays. It showed she had a concussion. It scared me because we had stopped to file the report instead of going directly to the hospital. How stupid of me.
The police came to the hospital and continued questioning Jenn. They picked up one girl and booked her into the parish jail. They did not arrest the other girl because Jenn couldn’t remember if she had touched her.
Finally we got home and some of our friends came over. Again we were in an extreme case of disbelief and agonizing frustration. Here I was again not able to protect my child from the aftermath of AIDS. First my son gets this horrible disease and dies. Then my daughter is beaten and could have died for something that she was completely innocent of.
Why couldn’t we stop this? Why didn’t we see this coming? Now what are we going to do about it?
The ER Doctor told us to watch for signs due to the concussion. We also talked to her psychologist that she had been seeing since
Our next task was to go to the school and meet with the administrators. This is really crazy. The Catholic School System has a no tolerance rule. Instead of being reported as a hate crime it was reported as a fight between two students and the rule says both students are expelled from school.
We were so angry! How can you expel our child for trying to get in her car on school property? Well, Jenn was suspended for three days and the other girl was expelled from the school. The girl, who struck Jenn, was released from jail after spending one night. We heard her parents were upset that she went to jail for a little girl fight.
The administration at the school suggested Jenn go to another school. We went crazy, there was only a few months of school left before she graduated. We would not pull her away from her friends.
The next thing was really was unbelievable. I contacted the Federal Authorities and tried to file a hate crime charge against both girls; they were seventeen and considered adults. They told me in
only Black People could file hate crime charges. Again I was so upset I don’t understand the justice system in our country. The law has now been changed, AIDS crimes are now considered a hate crime. Louisiana
Karen decided to call Tom Mull, our attorney, and told him what had happened. He was also outraged. He told us we were going to file a lawsuit against the school and the Catholic Dioceses. Karen was working for the same Catholic Dioceses at an elementary school. How could we sue her employer?
The girl’s parents never attempted to contact us to discuss what their kids did. I called Tom Mull, our attorney, and said, “I don’t give a dame what happens to Karen’s job, file the lawsuit”.
The Bishop, the head of the
East Baton Rouge Catholic Diocese decided to write a story in the Catholic Commentator, a church newspaper, about the Cross Family. He said we had over reacted to the student fight. We were just grief stricken over our son’s death. It was not the Catholic Dioceses fault. Brad had been dead for four years. We weren't exactly grief stricken. If I could have gotten my hands on that little man’s neck, he would have been calling for the last rights.
Again the court proceedings were really difficult. We didn’t actually go to court. Their attorney, who was another little man, was a real jerk to Karen and me. We settled the case and gave Jenn the money. Tom Mull requested as part of the settlement that their attorney apologize to the Cross's. He came over to me and asked if he could apology and shake my hand? We wouldn't accept his meaningless apology. I told him, ‘We had enough of their crap and to get out of my sight." He left.
Brad suffered unbelievably and finally lost his life but it did end for him. Karen and I went through hell, but hey, we are adults and no one said life would be easy. But Jenn shouldn’t have experienced all of the things that continued to happen to her.
Remember I told you about our neighbor’s little girl shooting herself? She was Jenn’s friend, this happened a year before Brad's death. Jenn’s friend at Most Blessed Sacrament School died of cancer in the eighth grade. Then one year late she lost her brother who was her protector. He was her big brother, she loved him so much.
Two years later, Clay, our neighbor's son died with no warning. She grew up with him, and he was also like a brother to Jenn. Then the
’s son Kenny, who she also loved again like a brother died of AIDS. The final heart break was when her cousin Paul, died of AIDS, Paul was much older than Jenn but he was always there for her. She could call him any time of the day; he was always there. In the space of a few years Jenn lost six people she loved and cared about. Most people do not experience this kind of lost in a life time, certainly not at her age. Dixon
I can remember picking up Jenn one day after school at St. Joseph Academy, an all girl school. She was in the ninth grade. Jenn told me when she got in the car with tears in her eyes, "I'm glad you got here when you did daddy, I was watching all the big brothers picking up their little sisters and I was getting very upset. Brad should have been here for me." What could I say but agree. I am not going to lie and say she handled everything with no problems, no one could. I just wish as her father I could have protected her from all of these things that a little girl shouldn’t have to face.
Jenn found a young man who she loved very much. He was a fine young man. He was a student at West Point and she had known him since high school. One day I received a phone call from her boy friend at my office. He called to ask for Jennifer’s hand in marriage. I, of course, said yes! It looked like things were going to turn around for Jenn. She was to marry this great kid. Karen and I were excited and started making arrangements at
West Point in for the wedding. New York
About six months before the wedding Jenn made a trip with her finance's family. A few months later he called the wedding off. Another disappointment in Jennifer’s young life.
We were never told the reason for the break up, she didn’t know. We could only guess. Jenn had decided to be tested to see if she was a carrier of hemophilia. The results were positive. Jenn’s children could have hemophilia. She shared this information with her young man and his parents.
Jennifer was only twenty one years old, but she had already lived the life of a very old person, experiencing disappointments and tragedy. There was very little we could say at this point. We just had no answerers. All Karen and I could do was to love her with all of our hearts and always be there for her.
Karen’s best friend since they were kids, Dottie Knox, was the kid's Nana, at least that’s what they called her. She was always there for Karen and Jennifer. She loved both of our children and she was very special for Jenn during all of these trying times. Thank God she was there for Jenn after the break up and especially after Brad died. She also was someone Karen could phone anytime of the day or night just to talk to. As I said, she was and still is very special to our family.