I do not want to cheapen the proceedings of today. Or the past 7 months. I don’t want to cheapen everything by writing about it, trying to spin it elequently enough to be considered a decent post. I don’t want to manipulate words to seek out pity, sorrow, or even justified outrage. Those emotions have been felt, and expressed, despite of and beyond my own efforts to inform. Yet, at the same time, this is a story that needs to be told, that needs to not be forgotten so easily. And inasmuch as I want to do this story justice, as much as I want to properly convey the depth and emotions of this whole situation, I want to be cautious not to make this about the story. It is about Vicky.
How do you hope on a day like today? What form does hope take? A word that the American culture has accepted as its icon. A word so liberally thrown around that it is on the verge of losing its meaning. Yes, I was proud that my nation was reaching out for hope, for change. And I continue to pray that it comes to fruition. But to see a word with such deep and profound meaning used as a campaign slogan was a bit disconcerting. And on a day like today, it makes you wonder, what kind of hope does one ask for in a situation like this? Vicky is already dead. There is no taking that back. After months of fighting, the migrant and concerned communities achieved a piece of justice. This inquest was not something given to the family, but that had to be fought for every step of the way. But even with that goal achieved, that battle won, there was still little good to be hoped for. What ever decision came down today at the submission would not bring Vicky back. It would probably do little to help the loved ones left behind begin to heal. But they were at least hoping for the possibility, the slim hope, of an answer.
There are many things that I could say about the inquest itself. I could criticize the proceedings, point out the obvious faults and the ways that, even as justice was being sought, it was unequal. How this major decision was being decided by a jury that would be the opposite of Vicky’s peers. But instead, I would rather talk about how I was amazed by Irene, Vicky’s sister, who attended the hearing as next of kin. The strength of having to listen to, defend and at times dispute the details of her sister’s life, as well as her death, is a strength that is beyond my imagination. Through the coroner, the former employer, the relatives, the friends and the supposed boyfriend, Irene listened, along with the rest of the court and public, to the details of a sister who had left home 11 years ago to work abroad. Irene listened to women she had only recently met speak of eating meals with her sister every day, or of the walks she would take each afternoon with neighborhood collegues. And sometimes, those details from the witnesses were not pretty. Remembered conversations that did not paint Vicky in the best light. The words of a witness that seemed to hold little truth in comparision to all of the other character witnesses. In fact, that particular woman’s testimony was called hearsay, but because this was coroner’s court, not civil court, it was allowed. Comments and speculations by one woman seemed to overshadow all the other facts and realities of Vicky’s life. Out of 24 witnesses, this one woman had the power to instill doubt as to the stability of Vicky’s mind.
As the verdict was returned this afternoon, we listened, half-astonished, half-numb, as the foreman read out, “Circumstance of injury sustained: Drowning. Consideration as to cause of death: Suicide.” There was hope for an open verdict, which would allow of the possibility of an accidental death. Everyone knew that the ruling of Suicide was a possibility. It was just one we were not willing to entertain. And even now that it has been written in the official records, it is still not one Irene and others are willing to believe.
“They may say it was suicide, but I just don’t believe that can be true. If Vicky really wanted to kill herself, why did she have to travel so far? Why not just do it in her room? Or in the bay near the house. It just doesn’t make sense, and I refuse to believe it.” Irene said after the trial. Tomorrow, the Discovery Bay Community will meet to discuss how far they have come, and what their next steps are. Of everything that has happened, the unity of this community, made up of migrant workers and employers, a true miracle. A blessing that will serve the DB community for years to come.
There is no need to continue to speculate. Further speculation will only serve to take attention away from the person Vicky was. We do not want to focus on who Vicky is in death, but who she was in life.