My daughter is dating a

he’d moved in with us that March, after sleeping on a couch for too long at her mother’s house.

The week she started eighth grade, she sent me a text: Omg Katie there’s someone here shooting please come get me.

Dadou wants to change the system that failed to protect her.

“I don’t get paid money to do this, but I want to prevent survivors from losing years of their life like I did,” she says.

Life had made her whip-smart and fearless, with flashing eyes the color of the Guadalupe in sunlight. She was starting a new life here, with nothing but us as her anchors. Suddenly I wondered: was this what being a mother was like?

It was easy to forget, sometimes, that she was a child. I couldn’t understand why she would want me to feel so afraid, so helpless, and so very much like a fool. and now she was the one who was scared—scared that she’d ruined everything between us. I thought of the many times in high school that I’d hurt my mother, and how I’d still never doubted her love for me.e’d been separated for a month by the night of the dinner. It was this desperate desire, I think, that made him do what he did: ambush me with his daughter at dinner. I could not teach this child, this girl so quickly becoming a woman, that to stay was always right.

In the principal’s office, she kept trying to catch my eye. On top of everything, my graduate thesis was due that week. She was suspended, and we picked up Chick-fil-A in silence. “You’re going to sit downstairs and do your homework and whatever other schoolwork you’re missing today. ” I wasn’t sure he’d agree with me, but then her dad said, “Get your backpack.”Surprised and subdued, she nodded, and I stalked from the house with my laptop. The waning months of our marriage had been an electrical storm of tension and silence, vicious fights badly concealed. A dinner that should have been just the two of us, but that he perhaps saw as his last chance. He left, and we leaned toward each other in our iron chairs, holding tight, weeping.

When I took her home, we sat in my car for a few minutes, both of us gazing ahead at this home we’d forged together.n the night of December 17, 1991, Kim Dadou’s boyfriend, Darnell Sanders, drove up to her mother’s house.Even now, the edges of my vision blur when I remember it.The panic, the terror, the maternal protectiveness that unfurled like wings, so suddenly and completely that I couldn’t breathe. I texted her back, called, scrambled into clothing (it was morning and I worked from home), called her father, called the school.The woman who answered was perky and calm, which didn’t stop me from babbling, “Yes, my stepdaughter—she, she said there was a shooter, I want to pick her up, is everyone okay, where should I go? My teeth had been freshly freed of metal, but I still struggled with my skin and my flat chest and skinny legs.” In the silence that followed, I heard myself the way she must have heard me: hysterical. My stepdaughter was fourteen the way I had never been fourteen. She was more beautiful, her body more womanly, than any fourteen-year-old has the maturity to handle.

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The police found Sanders’s frozen body collapsed in a snow bank. Dadou was charged with manslaughter in the first degree and sentenced to eight to 25 years.

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