The story of Grace McComas and our struggle to save her touches upon several extremely important problem issues which are not often acknowledged or openly discussed in our culture. I am sure some of my community will be unhappy about bringing these issues to the fore, but it needs to be done if we are to move ahead with improving our lives and protecting our children.
We live in a semi –rural area which is about equally distant from the city of Baltimore and our U.S. capitol, Washington, D.C. The area is beautifully scenic, safe and stable. Howard County is often cited for its affluence, quality of life, and excellent schools. Not long ago Money magazine ranked Howard County 2nd nationally for “America’s Best Places to Live”, and our schools frequently rank first in Maryland as measured by standardized test scores and graduation.
It is without a doubt a great place to live and raise children, and David and I chose to live here and raise our four daughters. I have lived here all my life and I love it, but it is not without a dark side, one that I thought would never touch us, but it did.
 Somehow, amidst the beauty and the plenty and the espoused civility (“Choose Civility” is a popular public slogan), we lost our precious child.
The cul-de-sac on which we live has only about 10 houses and is just short of being long enough for the school bus to drive in. Our kids either walk or are driven the quarter mile or so to where the bus stops at the next intersection. Grace and her good friend from next door would walk home in the afternoons to our homes at the end of the street, chatting along the way. Some time during Grace’s freshman year, her friend’s troubled older brother began to talk to Grace and his sister (let’s call them ‘family ‘B’ as in ‘bully’) about some of the poor decisions he was making during the walk home in the afternoon. Grace, being very communicative, would often come home and share a good deal of this with me and we would talk about it. Because of my friendship with their mother, I was already aware of the drug and delinquency problems they were having with their son, and that they were drug testing him regularly. (and even when he’d fail, they’d sometimes still drive him to parties!? )

Via the window of his sister, I also knew of things like the fact that he kept a jar of ‘clean’ urine in his closet to try and beat these tests, and that teddy bears and deodorant canisters were hollowed out to hide drugs etc. He constantly talked about marijuana and how harmless it was, and wanted to encourage Grace to try it and talk his sister into it too so she could join him in smoking, which he thought would be cool. His younger sister was under great stress from the problems he was having and causing the family which she felt her parents weren’t willing to see or handle properly. Unfortunately as time went by, he moved on to other drugs.

Right about the time when the neighbor at the end of the street reported finding a syringe on the road, Grace told me that on the walk home he’d told her he’d tried heroin. She was alarmed and so was I (heroin can KILL you the first time you try it, and is super addictive) and when I told her I needed to break her confidence and share this information with his mother, Grace agreed and understood.

When I shared the info with his mother, her response was ‘Oh, he’s just talking… he’s just trying to impress her”… which even when typing still makes my face and eyebrows scrunch up. “Impress her???” She also said she’d noticed he was spending more time talking to her- they’d sometimes linger talking at the end of the driveway- and why was he paying attention to a freshman??

Why indeed….

Choose Civility

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