I became a fan of Katie Allison Granju at least ten years ago, when she was writing her column “Loco Parentis” in the Metropulse (that’s our alternative weekly for my non-Knoxvillian readers.). It was near the back of the paper, I remember, and the first place I turned when I picked up my copy. When she stopped writing for the Metropulse, I went hunting on the web for more of her writing and discovered her blog, and I have been a faithful reader ever since–through the aftermath of her divorce, her new marriage and fourth baby, and more recently the terrible tragedy she and her family have suffered with the death of her treasured son Henry.
Katie’s writing resonated with me, I think, because we seemed to have so much in common–we are almost exactly the same age; we both wanted large families in a time when that’s viewed as more than a little strange; we were married and started families very young (again an oddity amongst the college-educated); and we both practice attachment parenting (she wrote the book on it!). I was really thrilled when our online acquaintance moved into real life, as Henry started school at the high school my daughter attended and we became “neighbors”–participating on the same neighborhood mailing list and occasionally meeting at the Fellini Kroger.
Any dedicated reader of Katie’s blog could tell that all was not well with Henry as his teenage years progressed. She mentioned him less and less, and when she did it was in the context of how raising a teenager was the most difficult task she had ever undertaken. I wondered–I’m sure many readers did-what Henry’s problem was. I would never, ever have suspected the truth.
You see, I always thought–maybe you did too–that any kid with a serious drug problem MUST have been messed up by his parents in some way. Things like that don’t happen to kids from good home, with parents who love them and pay attention to them. If it did, there must be something wrong in that home, something hidden and shameful. That has been Henry’s biggest lesson to me. Because Katie is a good mother–the best. No one could love a child more than she loved Henry. The more I have learned about what happened to him and what she and his father did to try to help, the more it has become clear to me that what happened to Henry was not his family’s fault in any way.
At one time I also probably would have thought that Henry must have been a bad kid for making the choices he did. But I now know that he was a sick kid–a sweet, sick kid who loved his family and felt just terrible about the pain his addiction caused everyone who loved him so much. And I’m not trying to say that Henry and his family are an exception and thus deserving of some special attention. Rather I believe that Henry’s story should make all of us realize that addiction happens everywhere–in good families and not so good, to smart kids with bright futures as well as the disadvantaged. No child who dies as Henry did deserves anything less from law enforcement than the investigation and pursuit of justice that would be accorded any crime victim. That he was a drug addict should make no difference.
But is has made a difference. Justice has not been done. His family has been treated shamefully by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office. For ten months Katie has kept quiet about the investigation, while carrying on her own. She has waited on the legal system and has not used her considerable online clout to talk about the case. But now she is tired of waiting for what is obviously never going to happen. She is on the process of making public the entire story of what happened to Henry, as she has been able to piece it together through her own investigation. This isn’t speculation–it’s backed up by text messages, cell phone records, interviews with people who were there–and Henry himself, on one of the last days he was able to communicate before succumbing to the effects of the brain injury that ultimately killed him at 18.
I encourage you to start at the beginning and read the whole thing. There are eight parts posted so far. Part eight is especially horrifying and disturbing. That Henry’s family has been able to refrain from talking about it for so long, and that the KCSO has done nothing in light of what she reveals in that part–well, to say it is unbelievable doesn’t come close to covering it.
Katie and Chris (Henry’s dad) have also been active on local media this week, both television and radio. Their great hope is that someone will pick up the story nationally. So I am asking you to consider contacting Nancy Grace, as Katie asks in this post. If you know ANYONE in the media who might be interested in this story, please send them a link. Express your outrage to the KCSO and the DA’s office. Post links in your own blog, or Twitter, or Facebook page. The internet has given the power to the people, so let’s use it!
I never met Henry. I saw him only one time, when I was waiting for Emily to come out of KCHS and Henry came out and got in the car next to me, where his dad was waiting. But I, like so many people around the world, have been haunted by his story. Last night I dreamed about him. It was one of those dreams where you know the person is dead and you are just happy that they’ve come back for a visit. I remember thinking in the dream that I wished there was some way I could warn him, some way that I could prevent what was going to happen to him. Katie writes that she has prayed and prayed for what she knows is impossible, that God would just send Henry back. She can’t have him back, and it is too late to save him. But with our help, maybe she can prevent this from happening to another teenager. And she can get justice for Henry.
March 7, 2011