As usual, my trips to Texas are always bittersweet. I knew this one would be hard because I was visiting death row for the first time. I played in my mind everything that I expected to happen, and everything I would feel. However, I was not ready for the actual flood of emotion that came over me upon seeing the sign of the Polunsky Unit.
I entered the grounds and stopped my cr so the guards could seach the car. I told them I had a special visit with Rudy Medrano. The guard said, " Oh on death row?" I shook my head yes. I don't know why that bothered me so much.
I had no problems getting into the prison. I met another woman who was also visiting a friend there. I explained this was my first time to the unit and tod me not to worry, she would show me what to do. I was thankful for her help. I knew I was not alone.
As I entered the visiting area, I looked to my right to see an inmate visiting with his family. The woman I had just met told me that was Alvin Kelly. Alvin was to be executed that night. I almost fainted right there. Here was a living, breathing man, trying to console his family because he knew he would be killed in less than 12 hours. It was all becoming so real to me.
I sat down in at cage 27. I say cage, because that is exactly what it is. The side Rudy would be sitting on is smaller than one of those porta-pottys you see at parks. There is no room at all for them to move around.
I told myself I would not cry, especially in front of him. I waited for them to bring him in. As I looked up, there he was, and the tears began to flow. So much for not crying. Rudy put his hand to the glass and picked up the phone. The first few moments of our visit we sat in silence as I really tried to grasp the the emotions I was feeling. I have been in contact with Rudy for a year. Writing to him, or to any of them is completely different than actually being there and seeing them. Seeing the prison, and the walls that divide us.
Rudy and I spoke about many things and had a few laughs. For one split second, I forgot about the glass between us, the electronic doors that locked us both in, or the whites he wore. It was just me and my friend. Then behind Rudy walks a tall man, also in whites with a smile so big it filled his whole face. I soon found out that was Kevin Watts, who is sceduled to be executed today. Suddenly the glass became more apparent and I could hear the clicking of the doors not far from me. We were back on death row.
Rudy told me this is how it is everyday there. You could be in a good vibe, having a good conversation with someone, then you hear that someone new gets a date, and reality stares you right smack in the face. This is a reality that I cannot except.
When the officer came to me and said I had 5 minutes left, I turned and looked at Rudy. I know he felt the hurt and disgust that was in my heart. As I looked at him, the tears flowed again, and I said " I don't want to leave you here." He simply told me, " It will be ok." I stood up and told him I loved him and hung up the phone.
I went across the way to the bathroom, where I threw up. I looked at myself in the mirror and reminded myself how precious life really is.
During the visit, Rudy asked me if I really knew what I was getting myself into when I started this. I honestly answered no. I had no idea that I would be on an emotional rollar coaster most of the time. I had no idea that I would grow to love Rudy as my brother. I had no idea that the anger I feel inside me when I think of the death penalty, and those sitting on death row would consume me. I had no idea.
As I was leaving the visiting area, the officer asked if I was ok. I said yes. She then asked if this was my first time. I guess all the tears gave it away. I told her it was. She then asked if I would be back. As I saw Rudy standing there, in that cage waving to me, I turned to her and said , " Yes, I will be back."
On my drive back to Huntsville from Livingston, I crossed the Trinity River. I looked out across and thought how beautiful it all was. And how deceiving. In the middle of all this beauty, people are having their last moments with their loved ones. People are giving their last statments. People are being killed.
That same evening, I protested outside the Walls Unit. Alvin Kelly, whom I had just seen hours before, was killed by the state of Texas. As I watched his loved ones fall to the ground in agony once the execution was confirmed, I too felt a sense of loss. A loss of humanity and compassion amongst my fellow human beings. A loss of the principals of what this country was founded on.
I eneded the night by visiting the prison cemetary. Looking at all the graves of people who have either died in Texas prisons, or were executed. There were so, so many of them. I was completly numb. I was also completly aware that there will be many more buried there.
At some point, we all have to stop and ask ourselves, can we really stand by and continue to allow this to happen? These men and women don't need us to feel sorry for them. They need us to be in the streets. They need us to put a picture and a story to their name and prison number. They need us to bring back that love and compassion for others that so many in this world have lost. They need us to fight.