Breeann Rodriguez was 3 when she was murdered. On Saturday, August 6, 2011, she woke up, got dressed in a pink top and pink and purple pants, brushed her teeth, ate cereal, and went outside her Senath, Missouri house to ride her bike up and down her block with her older brother, who is 5. The community has a zero crime rate and they lived in an end street. At one point while playing, her brother ran inside their home to get a drink and when he came back, Breeann and her bike were gone. After days of an exhaustive and hope-filled search by police and town volunteers, an arrest was made. The man who took her life was a 42 year-old neighbor who had been living there for 10 years. He claimed he saw Breeann in his back yard, standing by his pool and carried her small 30 lbs. body inside his home, suffocated her with a white trash bag, then placed her body in the same white bag and dumped her and her bike in a waterway a few miles from her home. A clearer motive has not been given by the perpetrator, yet he's had a record of losing his temper.
Unfortunately, we all have heard of many such cases before in our lives. But for some reason, this one case, with 3-year old little Breeann, has affected me deeply and I find myself wanting to know why. How come some people read about it and are able to move past it? My friend Jenna suggests that perhaps this case hit me so personally because I too have a daughter who is 30 lbs. and she too likes Dora, and thinks herself our little 'Princess'. She also suggests that perhaps the fact that I have a very active imagination allows me to vividly piece together what it must have been like for this poor little girl to go through this horrifying death. Whatever the reason may be for my deep connection to this one specific case, this one child, I have been trying hard to accept the sadness I feel; not try to move past it, not trying to ignore it. Right now, I am simply allowing myself to feel, living in sadness, not worrying about when the sadness cloud will be lifted.
In the past, when I have experienced death, I found it so important to formulate a life-long plan of how to honor that person's memory with my life, my actions, my choices. From what I read about this little girl, she was a bit shy, but she was a very happy child. I thought of her brothers and of how close knit the family iwas based on the picture slideshows that began to pop up all over the web. I have decided I will honor this child's short, but happy life by heightening my sensitivities toward the sacredness in every child I come in contact with. As I begin the new school year as a teacher of 500+ children, I will take with me this new resolve to make a meaningful difference in each and every child's life. I am not referring to academic goals here. I am referring to something much more important than that. I am talking about inspiring my little people to live life to the fullest and most importantly to see and value their many, many inherent gifts. Too many kids go through their school years absorbing these silly labels placed on them based on their grades on an academic continuum (as if grades somehow determined one's human value or potential as an adult). I will honor Breeann's short life by finding what each of my student is good at and helping them nurture those gifts within themselves.