Diary of a Mother's Mission

My son, Kevin Martin, disappered under mysterious circumstances in the wee hours of July 18, 2004. His partial remains were found on February 1, 2005 in the river. The Des Moines Police have not been helpful and this is my blog to tell what I have done as it's done.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

In the Shadows of the Space Shuttle Disasters

Yesterday or today is the 20th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. This morning I heard on the news that Feb. 1st is the 3rd anniversary of the Columbia disaster. February 1st was the day that Kevin's remains were found.

The one station, national news I thnk, interviewed the brother of Ronald McNair, one of the astronauts who died on the Challenger. Twenty years later he still goes around to schools, some of them named for his brother, to keep his brother's memory and work alive. He said that day 20 years ago was the worst day in his life. This morning they interviewed a few more people, one of them, the widow of one of the astronauts. She talked about the science-educational centers set up to honor these people and educate young people about them and their work.

We are one of the faceless masses but our pain is not any less than that of the astronauts families. Kevin wasn't a Phd from MIT as was Ronald McNair. Kevin was just beginning his life. He was potential unfulfilled. It is doubtful that he would have gone to MIT or become a famous astronaut. It is doubtful whether he would have become famous - but one never knows. There are a few anniversaries. February 1st is one of them when it became very apparent that Kevin wasn't coming home. Maybe a handful of people will remember his name and face, sad to say. Kevin had no fame and no name recognition. Kevin's story is the norm, though. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all could be as accomplished as the astronauts, to be as famous, to be considered as heros? Actually, a well known man, and I can't remember his name, said that he felt the true heros in life are the little people, the common people, the faceless masses.

Kevin was larger than life in my eyes. He was my child. His impact on my life is powerful but I am his mother. So with all of this going on I still wonder how I can bring Kevin out of the shadows. How can I celebrate his young life and tell his story as Ronald McNair's brother continues to tell his brother's story twenty years later. It is a story worth telling as all our stories are worth telling. Kevin's story is a tragedy whether by accidental death, suicide, or homicide, and as I've said, we have no answers... None.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Des Moines

A wonderful older woman who was sort of like a teacher to me told me that Schenectady( N.Y.), meant "the city of false fronts". She had lived in Schenectady all of her life and was interested in its history as well. I don't know if it is true or not but it has stuck in my mind.I lived there for many years and most recently lived in Scotia - a suburb, I suppose, and right across the Mohawk River from Schenectady. My roots are in New York although I don't consider the cities in New York State beautiful. The Northeast never experienced the prosperity of the 90's as many other areas of the country did. Perhaps that's part of the reason.

Des Moines is a beautiful city. Kevin loved it here and would have spent his life here. A lady on the bus told me that they ( I don't know who she was refering to) wanted to make Des Moines one of the 10 most beautiful cities in the country. It certainly is well on its way to becoming that but I wonder at what price. Education? The police and other local services? I don't know Des Moines. It is uplifting to see a beautiful skyline in the morning and evening. Well, so many things. Does this make a city beautiful? To look at I guess. Now, though, Des Moines has a black spot against it which I hope goes away. Most average Americans are fortunate enough never to be involved with the police, courts, etc. I was never involved with them either until Kevin.

Des Moines should care about what happened to Kevin. There was a quote on the back of literature sent to me from Polk Co. "Justice will only be achieved when those who are not injured by crime feel as indignant as those who are." Solomon, 635 -577 B.C. I had also read something else which sticks in my mind. I'm not sure whether it is a quote or not but the jist of it is that a society or culture should look out if the life of even one person, no matter how inconsequential that person is seen to be, is diminished or disregarded. All citizens will be endangered.

Kevin loved Des Moines and lost his life here. I planned to make Des Moines my permanent home. Perhaps I expect too much but I want to feel safe. I want to believe that crime doesn't pay in Des Moines and that one can't get away with murder here either. At this point I have my doubts, obviously, but I am looking for a beautiful city, interior and exterior - not another "city of false fronts"...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Police

I had written a few letters to the police concerning the disappearance of Kevin. Many times I prefaced it with the fact that I couldn't know their job and the constraints they worked under. Especially after 9-11 so many of us became more aware of the wonderful job the police and firemen do and usually done with very little recognition or accolades from the public. I do not know what they have to deal with and I have told them so. Avery minor attempt, I suppose to try and put myself in their shoes - if that is at all possible. I did question though because I had seen things done in other areas of the country regarding missing person cases that were not done in Kevin's situation. I heard no resources, budget cuts, not enough man power, a matter of priorities.

A couple of weeks ago I saw an officer on the news mentioning a collaboration of agencies in an attempt to solve a crime. If the police didn't have the resources, why didn't they seek a collaborative effort as they apparently do in other criminal investigations? Obviously Kevin's case was not a priority as I have mentioned before.

Why should the police dept. use their resources to find a young man, to investigate his disappearance and ultimately his death, when his partial remains were found? Would the city of Des Moines be a safer place? Would the citizens of Des Moines feel their lives were threatened or lacking in security because a young man was missing and possibly killed? What difference would it make to most people? People are threatened by guns, theft, drugs, which lead to more violent crimes as we're told. So why would the police waste their time and energy finding out what happened to my son. What would happen if Governor Vilsac's son had disappeared or one of Senator Charles Grassly's children had gone missing?

So where do I go to get help in finding out what happened to my son? Sad to say I can not put the life of my child in the hands of just two men (police detectives), as expert as they might be, because they feel there is nothing more to investigate, it's not a priority, they've moved on to other things. There is no evidence of foul playaccording to them. Maybe so. But they have no proof of anything else either. The case is open in name only in my opinion.

I am to fault too. Two years ago I never looked at the pictures of missing children. That was a different world unrelated to me. I never thought this would happen to me or my family. Not something like this. I have been touched by the harshness of life before, I lost the American dream somewhere along the way, but I never thought anything like this would happen. It could happen to anyone as I found out. We have been brought up in a society which espouses the dignity of each and every human life . Our Judeo-Christian background of so many of us teaches the sanctity of life. We are all children of God. As we mature we're dealt many blows as we face the realities of life and distinguish between what really is and what our society gives lip service to. I have given up alot of my idealism but the value of my son's life, the meaning of his young life as deserving the highest regard, protection, investigation by those who are given that authority by society - I expect it just as President Bush, Governor Vilsac, Charles Grassely and others would expect and receive it.

Does the death of my son make a difference to Des Moines. Yes it does as a death of anyone else would make a difference too. The death of any young person is a loss of a potential unfullfilled. Kevin loved Des Moines. Who knowes what his future would have held. But the circumstances of Kevin's death are ambiguous, to say the least. It is a tragedy and his cause of death is unknown. Why? A year and a half later and we have no answers and more questions.

If the police can do no more where do I go then for the answers we deserve. Kevin's life deserves answers.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Tight socks, Music, and Tranquility fountains revisited

Another gloomy day in Des Moines. The last couple of days have been sunny but I still think Des Moines is approaching a record for overcast, cloudy,gloomy days. It has been an intense week as I've been putting something together for a possible story on Kevin. I have been rehashing alot of unpleasant events of the past year and a half and so decided today I would finish my thoughts from a previous blog. As a matter of fact I was looking for photos of Kevin and came across one where he had socks on that seemed too big and were loose and falling off him. I laughed to myself. Apparently somewhere along the line he must have decided he liked his socks smooth and tight to his feet. Of course he was much older when I sat next to him on his bed and so had that vivid memory. A memory because it is so different from my practice of pulling my sock out beyond my toes and then folding the sock over a little so it will stay loose when I put my shoe on. Last Saturday afternoon I thought of Kevin so often because my sock was too tight in my shoe. I had to keep wiggling my toes to try and loosen the sock around it! The picture of Kevin with his oversized socks was an early picture of him. So why this particular memory has made such an impression and stayed with me so long, I don't know, but it tickles me.

My tranquility fountain has been another intense memory. We sat there on my couch and he put it together for me, my Christmas present as I mentioned. I've seen others since then, some more elaborate, but this one was very simple and perfect to my liking. Just sort of like a monolith with a pool of water at the base. So many of my things have been packed away because of all of my moves recently. As soon as I think I'm going to be in one spot for awhile I'll unpack it and set it up.

Kevin listened to all kinds of music. He grew up with "Hair", "Jesus Christ Superstar" and even Peter, Paul and Mary. When he was still so little and learning to talk I remember him asking me to play "Elvira" by the Oakridge Boys and Heart Rock Roll by Hughie Lewis and the News. Of course the song tittle was The Heart of Rock and Roll but at that time that was all that Kevin could say; Heart, Rock,Roll. A more recent memory concerning music is when I asked Kevin to make a Peter,Paul, and Mary tape for me. I think he had just purchased a new CD. Well he did tape it for me along with some heavy metal interspersed between soothing and melodic P.P.and M.! That was an experience. Of course I started him out on Peter,Paul and Mommy and actually I was amazed the other day at Borders to find out it's still in print.(Kevin and I use to go to Borders frequently) Well is there a person alive who doesn't like music? Kevin had a guitar too. Music was so important to him.

I was asked what Kevin was like the other day. How can even a mother put into a few brief sentences what her son was like. I only know him as my son, as perhaps I've said before, but I'm trying to look at him in a more objective way now,as people are asking me about him, if that's at all possible. It's hard to put so much into words. I guess it's easier to talk about a memory and perhaps this will shed one more little light on him and who he was. One of many little lights I hope. Kevin loved to read. He loved music He was an artist. That says reams but doesn't come close to telling the whole story. Especially about tight socks!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Back to Reality

This is not what I wanted to write about today. Yesterday Chief William McCarthy's face was on the front page of the Des Moines Register. I think he has been in the news once or twice recently. They also had a brief interview with him on the morning news promoting his new anti-terrorism program here in Des Moines. I have met Chief McCarthy regarding Kevin and the "search" I was planning to have last November. The police discouraged me from having the search and would not committ any manpower to it. In Scotia,New York, where I was living at the time, I participated in a search for Craig Freer who had disappeared a few weeks before Kevin. There were a couple of officers who volunteered their time. There were some who were working but oversaw the search intent on protecting those who came to help and bringing their expertise so as to do as thorough a job as possible. I guess this started it all.

On many occasions I was confronted with news situations concerning missing persons. I could not understand why things were being done elsewhere, searches, the use of search and cadaver dogs, etc. and they weren't being done in Kevin's case. No investigation was done in Kevin's case although "Suzanne's Law, a federal law signed by President Bush April 30, 2003, states that missing young people age 21 and under are to be investigated immediately. I wrote a letter to Chief McCarthy regarding my concerns but not regarding Suzanne's Law since I did not know about it at that time. Suzanne's Law is a result of the work done by Suzanne Lyall's parents. Suzanne disappeared almost 8 years ago April, I think, from Albany, New York. This law was to extend the age from 18 years according to the Amber laws to 21 years.

Chief McCarthy told me that I had animosity toward the police. I have no animosity toward the police as I really have not had involvement with them other than a traffic violation or two many years ago. I was trying to relate a conversation I had had with my son Brian when Cief McCarthy jumped down my throat and accused me of wanting the police to slap around people verbally or physically. What I was trying to say was that more police presence on the case might pressure some people to come forward. There had been no police presence until I said that I was coming out to Des Moines to have a search. They then talked to a handfull of people. If people thought that the police were very involved in this case, continued to talk to people, reinterview some,things might have been different. People might have felt "pressured" if they thought that the police meant bussiness. This was all I meant. This did not happen.

Reality. February 1st will be the one year aniversary of when a fisherman discovered what turned out to be Kevin's remains. Partial remains since the skull was not found. Thanks to a woman who had come to Kevin's search, Patsy, I've mentioned her before, I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to a reporter at the Register. She will do a story for this anniversary date. It was very difficult trying to put all of my hopes and concerns into order so that I could somewhat intelligibly relate them to her, the reporter. I'm not sure I did that as I had to go back and relive alot of the past year and a half. It was very difficult especially as Chief McCarthy's image was stareing me in the face reminding me of alot of unresolved issues which I'm about to tackle...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dear Kevin

Dear kevi Wevi Sweetie Beetie beanie baby who is now a handsome young man,
Remember that? Pukie wasn't it.But I'm sure you just raised your eyebrows and thought, "that's mom". Yes, I guess it is. Corny at times.

Do they have computers in heaven? If not perhaps you're looking over my shoulder. It was a good morning. Many times lately it hasn't been a good time. I've learned to enjoy the peacefullness of the early morning hours but it has taken me a long time. Morning has always been the hardest for me. I wake up as I did this morning and stark reality is facing me. I got up, still dark, and started my usual routine. I put my walkman on as I'm in the other room away from the tv set. Lately I automatically turn the tv on for noise. The silence is deafening. Well I started to listen to a favorite tape. Remember Cinderella? I brought it to your apartment one day to listen to since I didn't have a walkman at the time. I also listened to John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Good tunes but I don't think that was it. Just another one of those times when memories were coming right and left. I don't know whether you liked Cinderella but we talked about John Cafferty since he was Eddie and the Cruisers. You listened to this particular tape too, "Roadhouse" I'm sure. The past week was the first time I've been able to listen to music in 5 or 6 years. I don't know why. Now perhaps I'm receiving inspiration from my little music man. What do you think?

Last night I remembered your trip to New York. I think that was the time Brian came in from Europe on leave from the military. You gave me one of those fountains. I should know what they call them but I can't remember. You know, one listens to the water and it's suppose to bring peace and tranquility. Which it does. I loved it and couldn't believe that my young son could have picked out a gift so unique - and something his mother would appreciate so much. That was th time I gave each of you boys an ID bracelet. Remember. And you were the one who wore it all the time. Maybe one day someone will find it.

This morning I remembered sitting next to you on the bed as you were putting on your socks. You always put them on, pulled them so tight and smooth. I think at the time I was going to say something but never did. I marveled at it since it certainly wasn't something you got from me. That memory has stuck in my mind. Isn't that funny?
Two very clear and significant memories last night and this morning. How wonderful. But then a few minutes later I might start to cry as I miss you so much. I guess I'm still Patty literal. A touchy feely person although at times when my young man was growing up I might not have seemed to be. What I'm saying I guess is that I would like to see you with these eyes, hold you with my arms and put another "sign of the mommy" on your cheek.

With Love always, Mommy

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Victim

It has been a crummy week because of the school busing part of my job. It brought a couple of the more intense memories of Kevin to the forefront as I mentioned previously. This specific memory has also inspired me to stick to my guns and do the right thing. A couple of months ago there was an incident on my bus involving a Lincoln High student, formerly attending Brody. He got on my bus, hurled alot of foul language in my direction, came up to the front of the bus, squirted me with , I guess, silly string and ran off the bus somehow squeezing through the back doors of the bus which I had closed. Unfortunately I didn't contain him but all of this was captured on video tape. As per the recommendation of my superiors I filed charges at the police dept. This incident was called an assault. With my previous dealings with the police that was the last place I wanted to be. Previously I dealt with detectives and although I did talk to one detective over the phone I don't think they knew I was Kevin Martin's mother.

The officer who did the intake called me. A detective called me. Polk Co. sent me literature because I was now a victim of a crime! A victim. Some of the information was useful as it described what I felt and somewhat what I was going through. Feeling helpless, unable to concentrate, being fearful, depressed, etc. Yes I am all of those things but it isn't because I was shot with silly string on an MTA bus. IT IS BECAUSE MY SON WAS MISSING AND THEN FOUND DEAD AND VERY LITTLE WAS DONE ABOUT IT. I'm just amazed at how prompt and efficient the police were regarding the bus situation. I'm sure that is a good thing and perhaps it was the case because it was the MTA. That's okay but it just highlights even more the lack of adequate response in a really critical situation. This is probably human nature too as people really shine on the simple things. The really serious situations - that's a different story. Maybe the police did the best they could. I don't know. At work I have dropped the issues of this past week, for now, because I don't want to test the MTA as the police in my opinion were tested. I wasn't ready to face another truth and that's what happens often times if you push an issue. Everything would have been fine if I accepted the police at face value but I didn't and so I am the problem. All of us have been put down by the police. Me, Kevin's father, Kevin's step mother, Kevin's brother. The victims are being victimized. That's nothing profound. We hear it in the news all the time. Common knowledge.

After I dropped my last students that day and headed to my layover point I started to cry. I heard Kevin's voice in my head. "mom don't let those kids..." I cried for that reason. The incident on the bus was unpleasant. I felt bad for the middleschoolers who were even repulsed by the language of this kid. I cry because I am a victim of a crime but not this one. But most importantly I cry because of the real tragedy. Kevin lost his life. He is the victim of a crime in my opinion and he is being victimized. He is being blamed for his own death. I don't buy it...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Doing The Right Thing

I thought of Kevin more than usual the last couple of days. I always think of him as I've said before. Not a day goes by that he doesn't dominate my thoughts. Maybe it's just the intensity of memory that waxes and wanes. I can still hear Kevin telling me not to take any garbage from the kids on the bus. As a city bus driver I still have a school run. The kids are also allowed to ride the bus after school and Saturdays also. Kevin rode the bus to school as so many kids did and then also rode it to, at least, one of his jobs after school. I can still hear his voice. He was very emphatic about it when I came out here and started my job with the MTA.

Kevin did the right thing. He had a little incident/accident with his car. I had come home from work and asked him about it because his car was missing. He didn't say much. A little while later I looked out the window while I was doing dishes. Kevin was talking with a police man at the time. Anyway, either that night or the next day I asked him about the incident. He said "I did the right thing." I will always remember that and it rang in my ears the last couple of days while I was fighting my case with the school vice principal at Brody (Kevin went there) and my supervisors. I lost the first round. Here was a kid who was concerned about his mother in the school bus situation speaking as a young man who knew what to expect AND he did the right thing.His insight regarding the MTA bus situation was right on the money. I'm sure Kevin would have always done the right thing in his life as he proved that evening. I will continue to do the right thing too regarding the school kids as it is a particularly poignant memory for me. "Mom don't let those kids..." almost screams in my ear at times. Kevin wasn't screaming but was forceful and emphatic in what he said to me and this has given me much comfort and encouragement. It's like he's always telling me "Mom just remember what I told you."

There have been other times where I feel like I have heard Kevin's voice. I don't hear exact words but the tone was the same. The same forcefullness. In a difficult situation I think Kevin would always speak up when it was appropriate and right for what he believed to be the right thing - even if it got him into danger. I can't help thinking that perhaps the night he died he "did the right thing" and spoke up against something that he felt was wrong...

Monday, January 09, 2006

My Little Vegan

The post Holiday doldrums. I'm as gloomy as the skies have been over Des Moines the past few weeks although I look out the window right now and I see nothing but blue! There are some pressing issues on my mind this morning. Kevin and my next step. The things I put off since I got here 5 months ago. And another issue that is aort of related to Kevin but which I will probable not talk or write about. So why food? Kevin worked at Flanagan's restaurant and Lounge as perhaps some of you know. I think Kevin's many talents lied along many different lines. Perhaps his interest in food was a result of his work although I think his employment showed that he was a natural manager and that he would have moved on in that direction, the food would have been secondary. It was difficult for him to be a manager because of personal reasons. I don't think he wanted to be a boss to his friends. He also didn't think he had the qualifications to run the kitchen although he did it and did it well.

Kevin wasn't a true vegan I don't think because he would eat chicken and eggs. I'm not even sure that a vegan will eat fish. Kevin ate fish too. Many was a time when Kevin visited me or I think it was more me inviting him to my apartment and I would cook a little something for him. Usually it would be a turkeyburger since I didn't have much else that he would eat. He didn't eat enough, I felt, and so I was always trying to feed him. I'm not a vegan and every now and then I really crave a good piece of red meat. Kevin and I always talked about food because of our common interest and so on occasion would go to a restaurant for lunch and frequently ended up at his favorite, Adong, which is Vietnamese and vegetarian.

When I came out to visit Kevin he took me to Flanagan's for dinner. When Kevin had visited New York he fixed steak Daburgo(sp) for us , a receipe from Flanagan's and so I was really anxious to try it there. Fortunately Tim picked up the tab for Kevin's sandwhich since the steak Daburgo wasn't cheap. It was fantastic! It was a fantastic evening since at that point I couldn't have told you when I last had the opportunity to go out to dinner. The whole evening was special as was my first visit to Des Moines to see Kevin.

I've been thinking about food since New Year's Eve as I indulged in hummus and horseradish cheese and so reminiced about my little vegan and the interest in food we shared together. And it's so sad because I have to catch myself. Right before Christmas I went out to lunch and my inclination would have been to rush home or stop at Flanagan's and tell Kevin about the gormet meatloaf sandwhich I had plus the fact I had been to a new place and had he heard about it.

The other day I visited Flanagan's for the first time since I moved back. The place where Kevin worked and spent so much time. It's hard for me to consider it anything but a bar but then I do remembr that wonderful Steak Daburgo I had there that night with Kevin. After Kevin's memorial service I wanted to be at Flanagan's. I sat there at the bar with him many a time and so it was a comfort to be where he and I had been. Where he had spent so much of his young life. This time I didn't get the same feeling. I didn't feel as connected to Kevin by being there and I'm glad. I'll probably go there again but I have other memories with Kevin which aren't tainted as sitting in Flanagan's is. Yes Kevin spent so much time there, it was so much a part of him but my little vegan didn't belong there...

Saturday, January 07, 2006


As I was standing at the library entrance a few minutes ago I remembered the plight of the 12 or 13 miners in Pennsylvania, only one of them surviving at this point. The families want to know how their loved ones died. They want to know how and why and so the authorities are investigating into the accident which killed these men. The families want to know what caused the accident, where they were, why they didn't survive as they initially thought they had, the conditions, etc., etc... The family of a man who disappeared from a cruise ship, a story which has become more prominent this last week or so, wants answers to. All along I've been made to feel like something was wrong with me because I want to know what happened to my son, Kevin. Kevin's remains were found in the river. That's all I know and that's suppose to be good enough? The miners were killed in a mining accident. They know more about the death of their loved one than I do about Kevin's death. But that's not good enough for them as it shouldn't be.They want answers, all of them, and so do I. That is normal. Their husband or father or brother or uncle or son is gone and they want to know why. My son is gone and I want to know why too.

The other day at work I received an award for a supposed "perfect audit" while performing my bus duties. They handed out the certificates and star key chains at the safety meeting the end of December. I was very taken-aback because I didn't expect it. I wouldn't get up and stand in front of the room to be recognized. Anyway one does not tell a Virgo that she did anything "perfect", at least not this Virgo! No one does anything perfectly because perfection doesn't exist. In this case it was a fluke that I supposedly did everything right. I'm still feeling uncertain about so many things that I certainly did not deserve to be called perfect at any aspect of my job. I've never received any award in my life and I don't intend to start now. With my weird sense of everything I was really upset about the whole thing.

What does this have to do with Kevin? I don't consider wanting to know all of the answers perfectionism. That , I think is just human nature. As far as the supposed thorough investigation regarding Kevin's disappearance and death, I don't buy it for a minute. A fact of human nature is that people vary in their thoroughness and perfectionism. One can't put blame on those who aren't, I guess. But thorough or not the police should be required to do a thorough investigation, especially when it involves a human life. Virgo or not, perfectionistic or not, I can't accept what the police did as a thorough inestigation. I want all the answers just like the people I mentioned above and the police are indirectly telling me that I should be happy with the very little I information that I did receive...