Fourteen were killed at Fort Hood, not thirteen as reported all week long. Which official is correcting the death toll? I am. On the authority of being a mother who is multi-paragravida, meaning one who has given birth more than once, and on the authority of being a grandmother of five souls, I can, I think, count straight about this particular tragedy.
Francheska Velez was a 21-year-old woman, shot to death by Major Nidal Hssan at Fort Hood Army Base. Thirteen others were slain also.
Nine weeks into her pregnancy, Army Private Velez had just called her cousin in Chicago on Thursday to say how excited she was about the child growing inside her. By night, she and her child were both dead, bringing the death toll at Fort Hood to 14 total. Not 13.
It cannot be that media reportage follows a legalistic mean wherein a fetus is not considered a real person … as per damages in a trial, say of manslaughter, wherein a tiny dead child represents no lost income, or other actionable losses, for instance. Except for its very life.
It cannot be, can it, that such cruel death to mother and child are not reported accurately because someone fears calling a child a child, would lead to… what? Laws that hold life of a tiny child as real real life. That hold the life of a mother endangered in any way, as a real real life too?
All I know is that Cheka as her friends called Francheska, was– despite the ubiquitous ‘stern’ look in her formal military photo– a darling, smiling woman who like many of our young, took her work in the military seriously and had done a tour in Afghanistan, and was retuning home to Chicago to have her child.
Her large family was excited about the new little life growing in their daughter, cousin, niece, granddaughter, and friend, for Cheka was a nurturing woman who loved nature, wrote poetry and did all the things all our young do, including making love. And thus, came the tiny child, a boy child, a son, a soon to be first-born precious child.
And then the death man came for the oh so young Cheka and her oh so young son. And they counted Cheka among the dead, but no one counted her tiny son among the dead.
Except for those of us who do, remembering the darkening of the bright gifts this child was bringing.
We could make a sign in soft ground for this tiny child and all the tiny children who tried to come but could not make it, that in the least, the very least of what is humane, that all the tiny children be counted in full honesty and reverence.
This is a picture of a tiny nine-week old child like Cheka’s son who also was nine weeks old and with all toes and fingers, nose and eyes, legs and arms, heart beating.