Today’s insightful post is done by Elana Canetti, a graduate student in Psychology at American University; author of the blog Flying Off the Handle.
I just stumbled across this website, and your son’s story, from a blog that I follow. I am only a year older than your son, and it breaks my heart to see everything that was taken away from him and your family, when he had so much left to live and achieve. When I think of where I was or what I’ve been doing in the time since the attack, I feel so helpless that opportunity was so cruelly stolen from your son. I was stunned by the behavior of the attacker’s family. How could they attack you and your family for the suffering you’ve had to endure at their hands.
Your story has touched me on so many levels, mostly because of our [Ryan’s] closeness in age. I’ve been a student in D.C. for the past 7 years. Ryan could easily have been a classmate, a friend. He reacted exactly as I would have, trying to defuse the situation. I don’t blame you for not being able to forgive. It is all so senseless, so incomprehensible.
Your strength and humor and refusal to sit quietly is so inspiring.
I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but I just wanted to say that my heart and my sympathies go out to you and your family for all you’ve had to endure. I truly hope and pray for the best for Ryan. You have my 100% support in preventing this criminal from being paroled and cheering your son on.
Although I wish I would never have had to come across any such story, I am too. I think it’s amazing how, in spite of everything the Vantrease’s have thrown at you, your family remains as loving, close, and supportive as ever. It takes a lot of courage and strength to stay together and not turn to the ugly route the Vantrease’s have. I understand the need to be defensive and supportive of family, but regardless of everything else, at the end of the day, their son took something from you that cannot be replaced. They should be grateful their son is alive, even if in jail, because you do not get the luxury of seeing your son live his life as he should be doing. They have a lot of chutzpah to attack and confront you, and pretend like their struggles are even anything compared to yours. They get to talk to their son, you do not, and their son is responsible. Clearly that family is not big on owning up to responsibility I can see where Austin gets it.
As a young woman growing up in these times, especially after reading stories like these, I worry about what is going on with this world. It’s not always the hand we’re given, but also the choices we make. I choose to take responsibility for the mistakes I make and apologize for them. I choose to pursue a path that will make me successful and productive. I choose not to be self-destructive. But my parents had a big hand in that. They raised me right, to be caring, respectful, and smart about my choices. I can clearly see your family has the same values as mine. But there are families like the Vantrease’s and other people who are intentionally cruel or thoughtless and act without thinking or with malice or perpetuate hate and violence and aggression and many other things. It’s terrifying.
Your story and website remind me there are plenty of other people like Ryan, and your family, and me, and my family and the positive people we are lucky to choose and to be surrounded by. The amount of support, both emotionally and financially, that you have been given is overwhelming. Your son’s life remains incredibly relevant because there are so many out there who love and support him and your family. In spite of all the awful that has been done, he has reminded us of the kindness, graciousness, caring, and hope that still exists.
As a student pursuing graduate degrees in psychology, I can assure you I know labs full of people who will listen to your story (as well as Facebook friends and blog followers, whom I will share this with). Although I don’t personally research TBIs, I know that there are many out there hard at work to find things that will help your son. Your son’s life remains relevant because it is exactly stories like his that give us researchers the drive to understand more, to find a cure. I sincerely hope the fellow members of my field find something soon, and I know I will definitely be keeping up to date on the TBI research from now on with you all in mind.
Your efforts have found one more person who refuses to sit quietly. People who behave like monsters should not be let free in society. People should not be allowed to act hatefully and cruelly. Everything in the media about bullying and violence is ridiculous. It might be the psychologist in me speaking, but I’m like your son; I prefer to settle things with kind or respectful words and respectful discourse, and I don’t understand those who resort to other means. The message needs sent that it will no longer be tolerated. I’m adding my voice to your fight, both for your son and for other victims of senseless and thoughtless cruelty.
If nothing else (besides my signature on petitions and whatever I can donate), I promise to appreciate how lucky I am to be surrounded by loving and caring people that taught me all this. I promise to appreciate the life and opportunities that I have, because your son’s story reminds me how easily that can be taken away. I won’t take that for granted.
As long as Ryan has you for a father, his life will never be irrelevant.
Sign our petition to keep violent offender, Austin Vantrease, behind bars for as long as allowable.
Special thanks to my daughter, Kari, who made this petition a success by invoking social media to spread the word. She became an adult much too early in her life, leaving almost everything behind to be there for her brother.
As a senior in high school — just three years ago — she took it upon herself to be strong for not just Ryan, but for Sue and me. We were helpless not to lean against her unrelenting strength when everything crumbled around us… except for her. She never wavered. Her loyalty to our family makes me proud that I’m her dad. She makes me look better than I am.
Like Ryan, she’s made of the right stuff.