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Tova Gabrielle

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The Ice Queen
by Tova Gabrielle   

Last edited: Sunday, September 22, 2002
Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2002

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Tuesday, December fourth, I couldn’t get out of bed. My housemate called and I said I have hit bottom and I don’t know why. I didn’t do anything that would bowl me over like this. I stayed in bed, never have I stayed in bed all day unless I was sick. Which I wasn’t. Just blanketed in blackness.
4:00 the phone woke me. "Hi Tova, is Julian there?" the male voice cracked. "Ray, what’s wrong. Tell me." "Remember Woody?" "He’s dead?"
The next thing I remember was Mary on the phone crying that she’d gotten a message on the answering machine that sounded unintelligible, a lot of shouting and scuffling.

Tuesday, December fourth, I couldn’t get out of bed. My housemate called and I said I have hit bottom and I don’t know why. I didn’t do anything that would bowl me over like this. I stayed in bed, never have I stayed in bed all day unless I was sick. Which I wasn’t. Just blanketed in blackness.
4:00 the phone woke me. "Hi Tova, is Julian there?" the male voice cracked. "Ray, what’s wrong. Tell me." "Remember Woody?" "He’s dead?"
The next thing I remember was Mary on the phone crying that she’d gotten a message on the answering machine that sounded unintelligible, a lot of shouting and scuffling. I thought it was ___ (my relative who has been having "episodes" and was in the hospital at the time.) Then Tuesday I found out about Woody. It was Woody.
I cried with her and offered to help where I can.
Next morning I was awoken by someone who said Keith and Mary needed some juice. "What do you mean? They’re working." No, they’re not doing well. I thought they needed something more from me, but no matter, I brought the juice.
When I arrived at their house there was a sign on the door to come in and wait. It would be an hour or so. I was glad to sit and perhaps meditate.
I walked over to their dining room table. Photos and letters from Woody, whom I’d not met, only heard about from Julian who knew him. That’s my younger son, best friends with Mary’s son, Ray.
A note read, "You are wonderful parents." Then went on to advise them about being cautious in doling out consequences to Ray, to ask themselves if anything of their own unresolved issues was playing into their judgements at such times. Ask yourself if there is another way before doling out consequences.

The pictures. The backpack on the wildernessman’s vibrant smiling form. Cartoons: someone on a ladder to the sun, waving, "Hi sun!" A snowman. The ladder climber looking back at the snowman, "Wanna come with me?" "Can’t Ill melt."

So it went for days I imbibed their best friend and the mentor of Ray and entertainer to Julian with his stories and antics.
A day or so from that first day and Mary and Keith ask me to stay and field calls from press. From that day onward for the next three months I began speaking to eyewitnesses as well as the press. At a press conference with the Hartford Courant I listened to their recounts of the day that woody was shot in their church. *[see ver batim notes at bottom of story].

I was familiar with the incident when Mary asked me to take any calls, saying they are expecting one from a woman who was present when Woody got shot at the All Souls Church. She’d call about our coming to the meeting tonight, Sunday, one week exactly since the horror. There’d been a lot of discussion between me and Mary, me asking why would you want to go in there? Me thinking, "you’ll be re-traumatized." No, she felt it was important to support the community up there, they’d suffered too and needed to talk, we all need to talk. But how was the meeting which was not to be about talking but rather about the Unitarian Minister re-dedicating the sanctuary, cleansing it of the event, going to serve Mary and others of Woody’s friends? Because, Mary had explained, we’d have time after to meet with them. I rationalized: Oh, it’s like when your friend dies, you want to talk to everyone who knew anything at the time. OK.

7 PM about ten of us show up. Breathe. We’re going in now. Hold someone’s hand. Try to just witness where it happened. Be here for woody, sorry Woody we’re a week late but we came like you’d asked. We’re here now to bear witness.

The minister: "Ice Queen." Announces this is not about anything other than re-claiming this space from the horrific turmoil that swept through it. Rage. We will not accept this. We stand united is the phrase in my head, the phrase since 9/11. Fervor that is all action, no contemplation although she says words about ritual about cleansing about taking back power, or taking back dignity or taking back the space, a sacred peaceful space was stolen from the townsfolk who came here in all good faith that this was a place of prayer and healing. Until.
She announces who is here to bear witness to the reclamation, as well as who is not but is here in spirit. She will light 5 candles for each group. The congregants now. The congregants then. The police. Woody Woodward’s friends who came here tonight in unimaginable fear, she says. I whisper pass it on to the others: unimaginable courage and goodwill.
But no candle for woody. I scan the faces in this last row where we are closest to the door we came in. Looks of suspended disbelief. I whisper to Will, what are you feeling? He shushes me. I slouch down and close my eyes. When I look at the ice queen she hasn’t enough spiritual energy running through her arm to cause a match to light. Again and again she strikes the matchbook and again and again and again it will not alight. And then. The match-head breaks off when she strikes it and catches fire and ascends, then disappears. All of us in the back row break into grins of relief, that one for woody, who ascended. Fuck her match lighting powers. Something higher is at work here. We settle down, hoping that was the worst of it.
But no. Now she will cleanse the place where he fell. She is not doing it for woody, but in spite of woody. But again she hasn’t the energy working in her behalf: the water jar, the salt water, the tears he cried. It will not open to her. "I need help," she says and boy isn’t that the understatement of the year.

Someone has to open the water for her. Then the kneeling at the place he fell, as she chants her incantations and it sounds to my ears like the tone of Catholicism but I can’t be sure, as I'm Jewish.
Mary next to me is crying. She whispers, seeing the towels with which the man kneeling washes the place, Woody asked for towels. I am repulsed and slightly hysterical at the contradictions between what the ice queen thinks is happening and the translating job surely all Woody’s friends engage now. I want to leave. I know it’s not the right thing to do. I'm here to support Mary, most of all. Woody would’ve wanted someone to watch out for her in a womanly way and it seems I'm self elected because I can’t separate a bit from this dense suffering, it is haunting me and the only thing that makes it manageable is helping this gentle good woman who took in my son when I was in the midst of a messy divorce a few years prior. I'm glad it’s my turn to help. I’d prayed for a chance to help. Had become isolated after that relative cracked up so bad and didn’t reconstitute over the years. I'm acutely aware of how everyone distanced and only a few came forward in my darkest night of the soul. Mary is me, receiving solace unconditionally from a woman who understands the depths of pain and isn’t afraid of feeling or madness. Mary would understand when I write that some people go stark raving angry. Or when I write about survivor’s having fits of sanity. The clarity of the mind burned clean by the fire that broke and charred the heart until all that was left was the spark in the middle that grew. She would understand when I write that once you survive your worst nightmare’s made manifest, if you haven’t lost your body along with your fragmented soul, then you find a place of insight like a diamond amidst the rubble of the life you once had, but lost. And what I mean when I write that I now know that the hotter the fire, the greater the purification. Woody loved Mary the most. I too find her story the most shocking of any I’ve yet heard and am in awe of her resolute stance, she is still standing, unlike I who can’t make it out of bed till Wednesday since he did that, my own, in fact two of my own, but that’s another story.

The ice queen is talking about a ritual cleansing. She is talking as if to little children to whom she’s about to deliver a delightful story, a teaching metaphor. "You all know the Harry Potter story?" Well, for those of you who don’t or aren’t into ritual this is a good time to leave, if this next little exercise isn’t your cup of tea. Not in those words, but this is the tone, and the message. It’s going to be fun or enlightening to the brave and curious. And then this: in the potter stories there is such a thing as a dementor. Now a dementor is a force, it is of all that is slimy and low and of fear and horror and violence and all that shadow stuff we don’t like.
Breathe. She’s not going where I think she’s going. It’s not possible. I talked with that woman for over an hour and a half today: tell the minister to be sensitive to the fact that Woody’s friends will be there in goodwill, but are still in shock. Pick your words extremely carefully, even if this is not going to be about Woody, even if it’s only about reclaiming space (which in this minister’s mind, woody took, but in my mind a space that was designed to serve issues of political and social conscience. A safe place, a place of spiritual refuge. And also, how can she cleanse the space without helping woody? I keep asking myself but when I voice that aloud the person on the phone is being so careful, so diplomatic in the interests of the church. But she understands, she will try to speak with the minister. We will just do the rededication and then the good part: there will be a trauma specialist who will meet with us as well as the witnesses, to begin a dialogue and process. It will be well worth it.
Yet what bothers me is how I knew as a therapist it was too soon. But my self-ordained job is wanting to support Mary and Mary wants to go. But still, can she trust her judgement right now? She’s in shock still.
Then the ice queen says it: "…and last week a dementor named Woody Woodward came into our space." We bolt. A couple of our group of woody’s friends stay, trying to tough it out, as she justifies, qualifies, rationalizes, denies, but in no way apologizes.

Some are headed out to the parking lot. Others have made it to the hallway. Congregants begin filing out behind us, beg us not to go, tell us they don’t agree, don’t know what got into the woman, apologize profusely, are nearly in tears. Please, won’t you come into the sanctuary with us and talk? So we do. A kindly gentleman, elder, a doctor: I just can’t get over it. Me: IT was so inappropriate, what she said,’… Him: "Not just the words were wrongs, it was the wrong FEELING from the start. I don’t know if I can come back here." He says.
What can we do, how can we compensate? The congregants want to help. But it is the minister who caused this, not them. I can think of nothing short of a public apology by the minister. When I mention this people who know her give each other knowing looks: It will never happen.
What can we do now that would make a difference? Tova? Asks the Jewish minister in ministerial garb, who I feel a kinship to right away. "Give Woody back his dignity." "Ask Mary and Keith," the group says, "Mary?" "I want you to light a candle for Woody." She lights a match which catches immediately and holds it to a long taper in a candle holder, says a long and comprehensive prayer for him, all I could imagine needed saying she says and the energies in my spiritual world are vindicated, righted. "How did you do that?" I want to know although I know the answer. "I open my mouth," she says "and spirit speaks through me."
A lot of venting. Mary angry, others crying. Each of us seems to have an angel by our side or two, all physical members of this wounded congregation. And we are so sorry too. Mary goes outside and draws with chalk a huge, "I'm so sorry" on the sidewalk to the church.
We pile into the van and it occurs to me what I say, which is this: We went in there terrified and wounded, but trusting we would be respected. We got shot down.
We went in there saying; "Woody you called and we came. We are here to bear witness to what only you experienced and while it was painful the worst was your fear of dying alone. Although others came they were not the ones you’d requested. So we came. We want to know what it was like for you so that we can hold your hand and although we can not undo what was done to you we can move through the feelings with you. We are willing to imagine your pain and in so doing, you will know and feel how you are never alone, although you’ve had to leave your body behind you. If we didn’t believe your spirit is fluid none of us would be so adamant about joining you. We are honoring you and by re-enacting the steps you took and the dismay you felt when your expectations of being received were rejected and then you were actually hurt for asking for help, we know a little bit better now what you begged to have witnessed.
And one other thing and that is this: there had been a point when someone asked you what we were asked: why don’t you come into the sanctuary and talk? While you couldn’t do that, didn’t know if it was a ploy, if it was a set up, well we did it for you, took the unseen, untaken path that we can only hope or imagine just might have saved your life. And so it is in every trauma, the car accident, where after words if the person survives, he or she realizes could have been diverted had a turn away from the onslaught been avoided by, say taking a right turn instead of that head on collision.

Woody we took the safer option, if there was one, and if you can hear our thoughts, you can take that safer option now with us, the living you’ve left behind.


**************************************************

09/20/2002 Here is a newspaper article from "The Voice":




The Shooting of Robert Woodward
By keith harmon snow


On December 2, 2001, 37-year-old Robert A. Woodward entered the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Brattleboro, Vermont. Parishioners of this peace-loving church who were waiting for the 10 a.m. service to begin instead heard from the weeping stranger, standing at the altar podium, who spoke about the environment and civil rights and his fears of being hunted down, tortured and killed by the FBI. "If the police are called," eyewitnesses recount Woodward saying, "I will be killed."

Children were soon taken outside and at 10:04 a.m. church president Charles Butterfield placed a 911 call from his office. According to Butterfield he requested that plainclothes officers be dispatched. He related that Woody was "deathly afraid" of authorities, and that he had a knife and was threatening to take his own life.

Using very specific language, the tearful Woodward begged the church for protection. A political activist awake to the FBI and CIA’s histories of human rights atrocities and clandestine political repression, Woodward had made a rational choice based on the history of the Unitarian church in providing sanctuary for asylum seekers. (For example, in the 1980s, the Unitarian church aided refugees from Latin America.)

Woodward begged for "sanctuary" from the authorities. Eyewitnesses in later testimony concurred that Woodward claimed to have been threatened at his home the previous evening by CIA or FBI agents. A downstairs neighbor at Woodward’s apartment in Bellows Falls claims to have seen and heard two men questioning Woodward on the evening of December 1.

Shoot for the body mass

At about 10:10 a.m. three veteran Brattleboro police officers with bulletproof vests and automatic weapons entered the church. People had been seated by the altar consoling Woodward. The situation had been de-escalated, and police reportedly asked someone present at the back of the church: "Which one is it?"

Woodward had become distressed as parishioners initially left the church. Some of the eighteen people who stayed had convinced Woodward to put away the three-inch knife he had drawn and pointed at his eye to gain the attention of those who were leaving—parishioners incapable of taking Woodward’s pleas for sanctuary seriously—and with a cell phone they were making calls to Woodward’s friends in an effort to confirm his story. Told that his behavior had frightened people, Woodward said, "I’m sorry."

Spotting the police, one eyewitness told them to "Get back." Police officers shouted at Woodward from the back of the church. With no attempt to negotiate or disable Woodward with pepper spray, at about 10:13 a.m., two veteran Brattleboro police officers—trained in hostage negotiation and the use of less-than-lethal force—pumped seven .40 caliber bullets into Robert Woodward.

The police and witness accounts differ starkly, but evidence suggests that Woodward was shot four or five times after he was down. In a re-enactment of the shooting, witness Thomas Thompson was adamant that Woodward was shot from above as he lay curled in the fetal position on the floor. Vermont State's Attorney Dan Davis reported to the Woodward family on December 7, 2001 that the preliminary official autopsy results showed that one bullet entered Woodward's back.

His elbow shattered, wounded in both arms, shot at least once in the gut and once in the back, police handcuffed Woodward stomach-down. Prior to the arrival of EMTs, and for some time thereafter, eyewitness and M.D. Phyllis Woodring pleaded with police to be allowed to treat Woodward and stop the bleeding. Police refused.

According to officials’ statements, "medical treatment was rendered immediately." But eyewitness chronologies—supported by scant official details made public to date—suggest that EMTs responded slowly and were prevented for some "medically significant period of time" from attending to the cuffed and wounded man: when EMTs requested the handcuffs be removed they were refused because Woodward—totally incapacitated by gunshot wounds—had not been searched.

The official record has the ambulance drivers reporting that they were on route to the hospital at 10:37 a.m. It took some 23 minutes to get Woodward off the church floor. Equally curious, it took 22 minutes more for the ambulance to drive the three miles to the Brattleboro hospital—normally a six-minute drive at posted speed limits, with one stoplight.

Moaning about "political assassination" and "global warming" and crying "I love you," Woodward remained conscious. He died at about 2 p.m.

Police investigate themselves

Robert Woodward was a peaceful man whose life, according to hundreds of friends, acquaintances and professional colleagues, revolved around kindness, compassion and public service. He was especially active with children and the elderly.

Woodward lived his philosophy, shunning materialism, eating no animal products, working to educate people about global climatic mayhem, peace and justice. After the horrors of September 11, 2001, Woodward had apparently grown increasingly alarmed about the abrogation of civil liberties in the United States and the unaccountable sweeping and secretive powers of the Office of Homeland Security.

Newspapers have misrepresented both the circumstances and the character of Robert Woodward—in keeping with the official description of an unstable loner who was paranoid and psychotic, armed and dangerous. Accepting official accounts bent on exonerating officers of all possible wrongs even before any formal investigation began, newspapers have been silent on the gross irregularities of the case. Many questions remain unanswered.

Witnesses filled out police reports the same day, December 2. According to Woodward’s supporters, the three police officers—sequestered in a private room on Monday, December 3, unsupervised—compared and corroborated their written statements.

In a gross procedural irregularity and violation of fundamental human rights, Woodward’s body was not released to the family, but was quickly cremated—destroying the forensic and medical evidence—prior to any independent autopsy or familial observation. Autopsy and forensic evidence has been withheld, and evidence at the church—the scene of a crime, no matter which side you attribute with criminality—was destroyed and tampered with.

Analysis of the investigation by Vermont State Attorney General William Sorrel reveals major discrepancies in witness and police versions. The report is rife with Orwellian manipulations designed to downplay irregularities, discredit or suppress key eyewitness testimony, and exaggerate the scant evidence that serves to buttress official positions.

Woodward family attorney Thomas Costello said Vermont State Police had "prejudged" their investigation in a December 3 press release. The family has filed a civil suit against the State of Vermont.

The details of the fateful minutes that morning at the All Souls Church, the subsequent police actions and rescue delays in administering help, and the irregularities, illegalities and conflicts of interest of the police investigation—reluctantly instituted after widespread public protest—are the subjects of a September 24 press conference organized by friends and supporters of Robert "Woody" Woodward (for more info visit ).

"To me it is clear," says Jim Hoffman, one of the long-time friends spearheading the Justice for Woody press conference in Brattleboro, "there was a cover-up from the very beginning. Here you have three officers, all carrying pepper spray, all had body armor with big American flags on their chests—every one of them over 200 pounds—and then there’s this scrawny 140-pound guy, in a T-shirt, holding a knife to his own eye, terrified of being hunted and disappeared. And all of the eighteen eyewitnesses present have said that they never felt threatened by Woody."

Exactly what happened in the hours and minutes before Woodward was shot? What was he running from? Were his fears justified? Is this what standard police operating procedure looks like in America? Is this a case of excessive force? A political assassination? A cover-up? Or is it merely a horrible—though lethal—mistake made by otherwise caring police officers afraid for the safety of themselves and some people at a Sunday morning church service?






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Reviewed by iblieve, aka: iblieve
This is a shocking story that validates my belief that the goverment is in the midst of taking away our rights. I feel for the family, no justice will be found here. iblieve
Reviewed by Janet Caldwell
I have no words. I am too shocked and stunned.

Love & Peace, Janet xoxoxoxo
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