It Just Doesn’t Have To Be That Way

I don’t know about you, but I quickly became consumed with this whole Gabby Petito situation.

It’s not like heinous crimes haven’t become a daily part of our lives. All it takes is opening yourself up to the flood of information aimed at us daily, and you’ll quickly get your fill.

From the beginning of the Gabby story, I sensed something incredibly wrong. As the days rolled on, more and more revelations indicated this just wasn’t going to turn out well.

It started September 11th, when Gabby’s family reported her missing. They hadn’t heard from their young, 22-year-old daughter for several weeks. She had been on a road trip adventure with her fiancé` and even though they traveled to the middle of nowhere, it was unusual for her not to check in for that long.

Back home, her best friend hadn’t heard from Gabby on her birthday. That wasn’t like her. Then, it was revealed that the guy she was traveling with had returned to his parents’ home, with HER van and had been home five days before the rest of the world found out that Gabby was not with him. First, his parents wouldn’t allow police to talk with him. (wait, he’s an adult, right?) Then, they said he had actually left their home several days before and that they “didn’t know where he was.” I hope over time that, if their son is convicted as Gabby’s killer, that the parents are charged with something to do with harboring and aiding a fugitive.

I started writing this on Monday. Tuesday afternoon, we got the word that the medical people had identified that body found near Grand Teton National Park matching her description was actually Gabby.

Over time, I’m sure we’ll find out the complete story, learn every sordid detail, and set up our DVR’s to record the story when it arrives on 48 hours. It’s what we do.

But the reason I’m diving into this topic this week is because it didn’t have to be that way.

As you probably saw on the police body cam footage when they were called out because of a reported domestic dispute, Gabby was shaken. She was not happy, she was crying and told police matter-of-factly that she and her boyfriend had a fight. Police didn’t have enough evidence to take any steps, neither wanted to press charges, which we now realize probably could have saved her life. With insufficient evidence of a crime, there was nothing they could do and had no choice but to let them go.

I look at pictures of that cute, bubbly 22-year-old with her whole life ahead of her and having all of her future adventures robbed from her and it just makes me sad. Watch her videos and see how full of life she was. See the news reports with her parents pleading for information about the whereabouts of their daughter and feel their pain.

Again, it just didn’t have to be this way.

From the second we’re born, the clock is ticking. We’re free to choose whatever path we want, we’ll make mistakes and if they’re bad ones, we’re the ones that pay the price. It’s how the world works.

I just wish somewhere along the line that someone would have said to Gabby, “Are you sure about this? Is he hurting you? Are you sure you want to connect your life to this guy?” It always amazes me that someone so out-going, seemingly so happy, could have a level of insecurities that kept her there and in harm’s way.

Apparently, to his credit, one of the park rangers actually did that very thing, but by that time, she was beyond reach.

Monday, I celebrated my 66th birthday. While I hope for many more years to come in the future, I’ve already enjoyed a lot of friggin’ years and a lifetime of experiences. Most were good, but there are some bad ones in there. That’s true for everyone. As long as we stick around, there will be more major decisions to make–potential turning points in your life. Looking back I feel really good about 95% of my life-changing decisions, with only a couple of minor exceptions.

They say that when you’re down to your last few breaths, it’s not the things you did during your life that flash before you, it’s the things you didn’t do. If your life isn’t quite what you had in mind, please, make a change. Switch directions. Have confidence in your abilities.

Career-wise, I’ve had three major shifts in my lifetime. Two were not my idea, the third was all me, rolling the dice and believing it would all work out. And it did. That’s what is going to fuel me into my feeble years. Between now and then, I’m going to continue doing exactly what I want to be doing. Absolutely, I’ve been blessed, but it’s the good things I’m focusing on, not the things that go south.

If, right now, your life isn’t going the way you had planned, remember: it just doesn’t have to be this way. Especially, in relationships, physical violence at any level is not normal, is not acceptable and undeserved. Period. And you have family, friends and even complete strangers that will support you in making a change.

I only wish someone would have passed along that speech to Ms. Petito earlier. God’s peace to her family.

Tim Hunter

PS ABC Meteorologist Ginger Zee wrote this article after the Gabby story reminded her of her own situation in her earlier years. Worth a read.