Can't Get it Out of My Head...

I knew I'd post about the Reggae Run at some point, but I figured it'd be sometime in May or maybe next October for advertisement, or maybe mid Novemember closer to Maria's birthday. I didn't think it would be Christmas Eve when I posted. I didn't think I would have spent the last week or so with Maria on my mind...but I have and I can't shake it. So, I'm gonna do what I used to do when I was little and kept a diary. I'm gonna write about it and hopefully get it out of my head. Sometimes, I get lucky and I find direction after I write about stuff like this and I see what I need to do...why it got stuck in my head again and what God's telling me I need to do now. Sorry to my atheistic readers out there - I know I have a few - but when stuff like this gets stuck in my head, I know I'm being told to do something about it.

Maria Olberding was one of my best friends. Until high school, I really didn't have friends. There were kids I knew and was friendly with, but I had a bunch of brothers and sisters to play with right at home and didn't really need to wander from my house to play with someone, so I didn't. Once I went to high school, I met lots of people. I was the smartest girl at St. Clement Elementary School so when I got to Our Lady of Angels High School, none of the girls I grew up with were in my classes. I was forced to make new friends. By the end of the first week, I realized Maria was in all of my same classes and we had already been matched up in French class for a project. Maria and I became pretty fast friends and I was thrilled to be in her world. She had TWO older brothers at Roger Bacon, hanging with her at the football games would increase my status there immediately. She was funny, confident, beautiful and smart. Maria was amazing...and most amazingly, she wanted to be my friend. She sought me out, didn't make me feel like I was tagging along when we'd go places, and she introduced me to Mick and we were quickly a trio of best friends.

We did everything together. Maria and I were in the plays and musicals at Bacon, Mick, Maria and I socialized together every chance we could. There was no texting back then, so we would actually call each other and talk to each other on the phone for hours each night. We studied together, took classes together, worked together and went on senior trip together. Every notebook I have from high school is riddled with doodles by Maria. I still have the picture she drew of my white trash future if I continued dating a young man of whom she did not approve. It's hilarious. If you're lucky, I'll dig it up and scan it sometime and post it up here.

Mick, Maria and I went to three different colleges and still kept in touch. In the days before email, instant message, texting, blogging and free long distance on cell phones we actually wrote each other letters. We stayed friends after graduation and through marriages. Maria (and Mick) was a bridesmaid in my wedding and half her family was invited as well. We were great friends.

Then, on May 23,1994, while driving to school, I heard on the radio that a "27 year old Hyde Park woman had been stabbed to death last night"...and they broke for commercial. My thoughts went immediately to my future sister in law who was living in Hyde Park at the time...but then realized Bridget was only 26, a year younger than me at the time, so the story wouldn't be about her. When the newscast came back on, they announced that "Maria Olberding had been stabbed to death outside of a UDF on Erie Ave in Hyde Park..." and I about drove off the road. The story is horrific... she was stabbed, fell on the lawn of a Hyde Park family, a driver of a passing car stopped to help her, she looked up and pointed at her assailant and told the driver "get him", the driver hopped back in his car and indeed "got him", the residents of the area swarmed Maria to help, an ambulance was called, she was rushed to the hospital, but internal injuries were too much to keep her alive and she died late that Sunday evening. Her assailant was a 14 year old eighth grader from a good Hyde Park family, their lives also ripped apart by this senseless act. My uncle knew the kid's defending attorney, my parents have friends who were close friends to the parents of the kid who killed Maria and they were also grieving the potential loss of their 14 year old. He was given 40 years in jail. He has not been given parole. He's only 28 right now...an age Maria never got to see.

I miss Maria. I miss her in every stage of my life. Mick has moved away. She lives in either England or Virginia...they keep going back and forth as her husband has a job in international law. We still keep in touch via email and Christmas cards. We both miss Maria. I wish Maria knew my kids. I wish Maria knew what I was doing at Princeton. I wish I could talk to her again...I wish I could send her a Christmas card and get one back from her. She's been gone from me for 13 and a half years and I still can't shake her. I should be able to move on by now, shouldn't I? Maria's parents forgave her attacker almost immediately. Her whole family did...they said it again and again at the funeral. A prayer for him and his family was said during the petitions. It was an amazing event...just like Maria.

In October of 1994, the first Reggae Run was held in Maria's honor. At that point, the money raised went to help victims of child abuse. Since then, the focus has been on Make A Wish and has gained more and more supporters each year. The website reports that last year they made $800,000 for Make A Wish. I went to the first Reggae Run - the after party, I'm not much of a runner, that was Maria's gig. I had to leave when they played Redemption Song b/c the memories came back too thick. I haven't been back since. I don't know if I can...and I don't know why. In a recent email from Mick she mentioned wanting to run the event this year, the fact that she doesn't do it b/c she still finds the event too upsetting. It's true for me as well.

I still don't know what to do with this...the event is huge! It helps so many people...and all in Maria's name. I know people can look at this and find reason for Maria's death b/c it's helped so many people with this event. I just don't think Maria had to die for all this to happen, though...so there's no solace there for me. I don't know...I just know that I miss her.


Julie said...

Hi. My name is Julie. I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. My best friend lives in North Carolina now but we still talk everyday and visit each other. I can't imagine not having her in my life. My last name is Kohls. Maria's killer, David Kohls, is my ex-brother-in-law. I was married to his older brother, Greg in 2001; we were divorced in 2006. The first time I met David was during a visit to the Lebanon Correctional facility. I remember sitting across from him not listening to what he was saying...instead staring into that dark soul and wondering how he could take someones life. It still baffles me how David could do something so devastating when he was raised in such a loving and giving home. His father is still to this day one of my favorite people. Dick Kohls is a wonderful father and husband; he gave to his church, his community and welcomed me with open arms when I became his daughter-in-law. I graduated from Princeton High in 1994 and didn't know about Maria's death until I was married into the Kohls' family. I ejoyed reading your story and feel I have a better sense of Maria.

calencoriel said...

Hi Julie -

I'm glad you enjoyed reading about Maria, you would have enjoyed knowing her too.

As I've grown older, I still wonder about your ex-brother-in-law...what made him do what he did that night, how his poor mother had to have felt, the absolute helplessness she must have felt and knowing she'd never have her normal life back. Both families lost someone forever that night.

Even though David didn't die himself that night, his family lost him... Everything I've heard about your ex-husband's family have been good things, like you related in your post, and I hope they've been able to find some kind of normalcy in their lives...

Your post kinda came at me from nowhere this morning...I'm glad you decided to comment on the blog. I'm also kind of stunned to hear you graduated from Princeton High School too - if you'd like to contact me you can reach me by email at calencoriel@gmail.com

Sean Kasselman said...

I was one of the last people to see her alive. I was the guy who arrested David for the police. I have always felt bad about not saving her. They teach you in the service that you stand up for those that can not defend them selves. Greg Kohls got my to enlists in theUSMCR. Well I lasted not very long because of a foot injury and was discharged early. My little brother played football with David Kohls on St. Mary's football team. My dad was friends with his dad when they were at St. mary's. I was in a bad car wreck 3 years ago and have to walk with a cane. I think I am going to the Reggae Run this year and maybe say Hi to her mom and dad if they are still around.

calencoriel said...

I've been thinking about going this year as well. Maria's sister contacted me via facebook and I've got Reggae Run posters all over Princeton right now. Everytime I think of going to the run, I tear up...but I think it's something I need to do.

My daughter is a freshman in high school this year and is running cross country so I think of Maria each Saturday at the meets...

I hope you can make it as well. Maybe we'll run into each other.

HCG said...

Hi calencoriel,

It's been 20 years, and I still think about Maria. We dated (long distance) for a while in the 90's. She was an incredible woman, and I miss her. I laughed when you mentioned her awesome letters. She was an incredibly talented and creative writer! Her letters always made me laugh. I haven't read them in years, but you have motivated me to go find them.

Thank you for sharing about Maria. James