Baumhower: The comfort of silenceWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There are very few people whose Facebook profile picture truly shows how beautiful they are both inside and out. Kaitlin Gerber was one of those few. Her picture captured her perfect smile and shared the warmth and love she maintained and kept in her heart, even though she was living a nightmare. I never met Kailtin or her family, but as a father of three girls, I feel her loss. I was horrified when the details of her final moments were shared.
Kaitlin was on the phone with a 911 operator as she unsuccessfully tried to escape her killer. My gut was wrenched even further after learning about who she was and the life she lived. Then an awful thought creeped into my head — there is a 911 recording that captured her last moments on this planet. Working in the media, I knew there was a possibility that a local news organization could request, play and even post the last sounds Kaitlin ever made. This was something I could not stomach. I went to the very place that captured Kaitlin’s beauty and posted the following:
“To all of my NW Ohio Media Friends: I fully understand the ratings war and the constant competition to one up each other in our collective news departments. I think too often we lose focus on humanity when chasing the most sensational tidbits/audio and video of the hottest news items. As you all know, yesterday, a young woman named Kaitlin Gerber was brutally gunned down by her deranged ex BF. I also know, as do you, that her final moments on this planet was captured during her frantic 911 calls looking for help. We all know the outcome, so why bring the family any additional pain by playing and posting those calls? As soon as those calls go online, they are out there forever. I know it is public record and that if they (the family) wanted to hear them, they can simply go to the Safety Building downtown and request a copy. The citizens of Toledo and NW Ohio do not want to hear a 20 YO’s final moments as she unsuccessfully ran for her life, unless they have mental issues. Please give this family some peace and do not play the 911 tapes. I challenge you to not stoop so low. Instead of playing the audio, inform your viewers on what they should do if they are being stalked. Once again, please do not play the 911 Calls.”
I just wanted to give Kaitlin’s family some peace. It’s hard to even breathe, let alone mourn at this kind of sudden devastating loss, and it would be impossible if TV stations and newspapers’ websites played her final frantic moments. My Facebook posting went viral, was shared a bunch of times and the response has been overwhelming. Although at least two media outlets formally requested a copy of the audio, as of presstime the 911 tapes had not been played on-air or shared online.
I am still haunted by the 2008 death of a former classmate who was murdered while working at a gas station. Matt Dugan rode the bus with me on our way to and from Whitmer High School. The image that cannot escape my mind is the video captured by a security camera inside the BP. This grainy black-and-white video showed how the cowardly way in which Matthew’s life was taken. A person so innocent and meek, who would never hurt another soul, was executed. I saw Matthew’s death by clicking on a link on The Blade’s website. I have been looking for a mental erase button ever since.
Most 911 tapes and surveillance videos, like the one that captured Matthew’s death, have no real purpose except for shock value. When local news shows play these videos and 911 tapes they are effective at garnering viewer’s attention. When these are posted to a website, they generate hits. But once the 911 calls are shared online, they never go away. Too often producers, editors and reporters are so competitive over a 30-second sound bite, they never realize what they are actually playing. It’s a fast-paced business where we are always worrying about the next segment or story, never grasping the lifetime of damage a previous one created.
To Jeni and Jeff Gerber: I know you are being overwhelmed with words from family, friends and even strangers expressing their deepest condolences. Words are heartfelt and well-intentioned but not effective at stopping your pain. There are no words that have ever been written that can ease your suffering today, tomorrow or in the near future. Just know that Kaitlin’s passing, and the way she left us, may give women the strength to find help when in a similar situation. Her tragedy may also connect with men, who may be losing control, and give them the courage to seek help. Even in her death, Kaitlin is helping others.
I am so very sorry for your loss.