Tomas B. Sr.

REPRESENT JUSTICE X JR: TEHACHAPI

Hello, my name is Tomás Bonilla. I would like to share a part of my story, a story of pain, understanding, love, suffering; a story full of feelings. In 2010, 9 years ago, I lost a 19 year old daughter and a granddaughter who was 19 days old. They were victims of a tragedy committed by my daughter’s boyfriend. They had an argument and the boy became despaired, I don't know, he felt he was losing the love of his life and his daughter. And he made the bad decision to crash his truck into my house, into the bedroom where my daughter and other children were.

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My daughter died in that moment, she instantly broke her neck. The same happened to my granddaughter. We were all together together, it was October 31. It is something very tragic, full of pain. I remember that day as it was, because I was in that room. I remember that… I have other children, I have two more daughters and one son. I remember that when the truck came in… I had to – the light went out because the truck came in from where the light socket is. The power went out. Everything was dark, the only light was coming from the headlights of the truck itself, a Cadillac Escalade truck. A big, heavy truck.

Everything was full of dust. There was rubble everywhere.

I remember that my first instinct was to look for my children and my wife. I remember starting to look between all of the – on the ground, everywhere, under the truck. I heard my wife’s voice telling me: “I have already found my daughter Itzel.” Then we continued searching and we found them one by one; I found my daughter Suri who died. I remember that I had to see her, I took her in my arms and… I realized that she had already passed away. She had no pulse, she was not breathing. I felt that she had already passed away, I realized that she had already passed away. And I remember that at that moment, with a lot of pain, I had to leave my daughter’s body on the floor to continue looking for my other children.

At that moment I realized that my pain was not so important, that I had to keep fighting for my family, I had to keep looking for my other children. I kept looking for my other children, I found them one by one and I had to get them out of the house. My wife and relatives helped me, some acquaintances too, and we took my children to the street.

My wife, I remember that she turned to me and said: “And Suri?” And all I could do was shake my head like telling her that, that she hadn’t survived and she told me: “And the girl?” I also did the same thing: she didn’t.

I remember that she ran to me, hugged me and we hugged. And my other children were asking me: “What’s going on?” The ambulances and police cars arrived. My children were full of bruises, because of the impact of the truck, and they were taken to the hospital. They took all of us.

The next day. And we didn’t sleep. In those days you cannot sleep. It is a very, very big pain to have someone taken away from you like that. I remember having my daughter with me a few moments before and telling her how much I loved her. And in a moment in which we just turned our backs to her, she sat down and…  Everything vanished.

And I listened to my children, one of my sons told the other one: “When you grow up, buy a truck and do the same to their family.” I think that really hit me, I was shocked. I said “no”, I don’t want that for my children, I don’t want them to cause the same pain.

So I talked to my children. I talked to my wife. We got – I think at that time we didn’t think of the boy, her boyfriend. We didn’t think of hate, revenge, we didn’t think about anything. I think that from that moment on, we focused on our other children, on their wellbeing. That they didn’t have any problems… Emotionally, psychologically.

I remember that they talked a lot about revenge. Acquaintances and many others wanted revenge. But it’s something that… 

I felt that pain, how is it possible for me to feel that pain, knowing that pain is bad, that it hurts you in a way… I think that only by living it you could understand how that pain hurts you, to have a loved one taken away from you like that. I didn’t want that pain for anyone else, I don’t want it. I chose to forgive the boy, I talked to him. Yes, I talked with him on the phone. My daughter also – that decision I made with my wife, together with my wife, of having no spite, no hate, no revenge, was something that defined our family and it still does. We keep in touch with the parents of the boy… With his sister, we continue… Speaking to each other.

We understand that… I see it as a tragedy for both families because he, his family… They lost his son, he’s in jail. And the pain the tragedy caused them, too. They are the girl’s grandparents too. They were the grandparents of the baby who died. We too, so it was a shared pain in a way. And we tried to understand that they were also suffering because they lost their granddaughter, their daughter-in-law, and their son.

I saw it as a tragedy for both families. A family that fell apart, a mother who died, a daughter who died and a father who is in jail. A complete family vanished. It is a tragedy, it is something that… It has really taken its toll on me, in a lot of different aspects. Be close to my children, support them, try, always, that they are focused, that they do not have any outbursts, that they are not impulsive, because those impulses are often the ones that push you to make decisions- The boy’s destiny is… messed up. Right now I imagine that it has to be very difficult for him too.

Every time he remembers that because of his actions he lost his wife and his daughter – I think it is something that is going to haunt him for the rest of his life. If I remember and I can’t… Time has gone by and I keep remembering and… 

Every October 31 is Halloween. That date will never be the same. You see people. You see the costumes, people asking for candy.

And I have to keep going. We try to teach my children to keep going, to keep going and to remember our daughter, their sister. To think about her, her mischiefs and…

But yes, it is painful every October 31st. It is something that leaves you with scars. Now… I think I feel calm knowing that my daughters, my sons, can move on without that hatred, without that resentment. I think the decision my wife and I made was the best decision we made. Because we were the pillars of the family, the core, I imagine that if we had made the decision to hate the boy, wanted revenge, or taught them that resentment I think we would have transmitted it to them and transmitted it to our other relatives. But we did not choose this and I think it was the best decision because we can move on. My children continue to study, continue to be optimistic about life, continue to remember her sister as they knew her: cheerful, smiling. And I think that decision was the best for us: not to hate. I think it would have made us no good.

It is bad to remember. It makes you relive things, it gives you flashbacks. I remember many things: the court, the whole process. The injustices that you feel when you are in court. It’s something that…

You feel used by the system. When the prosecutors tell you: “I am fighting for you. I will fight for your daughter. ” It is a lie. They are trying to reach their numbers, they don’t care about what I feel. After a few days they forget about you, it’s like you no longer exist. You don’t matter to them.  You feel used. It is something that is wrong. They make you feel used. 

I think I felt resentment towards the system; one feels used. They go to your house and they tell you: “I will support you.” “Support me in what?” I think they just cared about their numbers. Then they forget about you.  You are left alone, with your wife, your children.

You have to find support, find places where you can… Say what you feel in order to get help, like therapy.

I think it is… They are very, very difficult things. But… This has taken us to many places. It has led us to…  Now, my wife goes to visit prisons, talk to prisoners. Help crime victims. To understand. People who are in jail also – know how to talk to them, I think it is… Society divides us. It puts us on one side and another. Victims and perpetrators. But in the end we are both victims of society. And I think we are wrong. A little understanding is what we need.

And I think the seed comes from parents to children. The decisions one makes. More than anything it is the attention that one gives to their children what defines us. It is what I personally think we should do. Teach our children to be tolerant towards violence, because… Or just the “love” factor. Many gang members in the street say: “I’m going to avenge my friend because I loved him so much.” “If you really love him, why not want what’s best for him? What would be the best for each person?” I think of my daughter, her life escaping from my hands and I wasn’t going to say: “Ok, I’m going to avenge you,” because “Is it really what my daughter would have wanted?” No. I think what my daughter would have wanted – Love, you have to demonstrate it as it is. It is pure, sincere. Without violence. 

That’s it. 

It’s just that once I grab the mic, I can’t stop.

There are many things that I want to share. But it is… It’s very hard.

So many things that you think about. You just think and think. You remember.

These are experiences that define you forever. It is..

A lot of pain.

But also understanding.

After that I have been to Juvies. I spoke with young people and many of them have told me: “Why if those people caused you harm?”

They put them all in the same bag.  They are not all the same. I went to Juvies and I spoke with young people. Everyone has the same problem. They come from dysfunctional families and their parents did not pay attention to them. The only love or the only place in which they fit in were the gangs, or among bad influences. It is all they knew.

And that is what led them to do that. And when they are inside they realize that they made a mistake, and it is too late for them, because they are already inside the system, they are already cataloged.

And when you get to talk to them, they feel… First they see you with distrust, knowing that you were the victim of a crime. But when you open up to them and talk to them, and you really show them that you don’t have a grudge, or that you don’t think of them in the same way, it’s pretty. You give them, you see their eyes glowing with illusion, with hope, as if it is possible for things to change. They can change and… Move on.

That’s all I have to say.