Almost seven years ago, in April of 2005, a beautiful young girl named Nina was brutally killed here in Edmonton, the story made all the more tragic when it was announced that this poor young girl was only 13. The story made huge headlines at the time, as did the trial, but since then, it has slipped from the minds of Edmontonians, as we continue along with our busy lives, forgetting about those who were so marred by tragedy.
I met Nina's mother last night.
As I sat at my table at The Mustard Seed, waiting for people to come to me with their tax slips in hand, a lady named Peaches approached me and then sat down across from me. Peaches Atkinson, the name was so familiar, and first I asked if I had done her taxes last year. No, she replied, she had just moved into the area. As I went through my list, sure that I knew this woman, I asked, "Was your daughter Starlet?" Again, she replied no, but said, "I've been on TV a lot." I though maybe she worked for a local news station.
I finished her taxes and she was thrilled with her refund. She and her daughter had been starving for the past three weeks, she said, and she only just realized that she could come down for a free meal in the evenings. I stupidly had to keep pressing: "Your name is just so familiar." That's when she announced grimly:
"My daughter was Nina Courtepatte, the 13 year old who was murdered."
I could do nothing but say that I was sorry, and she just nodded, like she had explained herself a hundred times before. I quickly went back to her taxes, she thanked me, and went off into the night.
I felt so terrible that I had brought up this woman's tragic past. I should have made the connection, and especially when she told me her sixteen year old daughter's last name, it was so familiar that I had no trouble spelling it, yet I still didn't make the connection.
I hope that I didn't ruin her evening, I hope that sending her off with a tax refund made her day, and I hope that I see her again so that I can talk to her, not about Nina, but about how she is doing, and whether she is getting enough to eat.
I can't even begin to imagin the horrors that this woman has dealt with in the past seven years. I've been thinking about her all day and praying for her peace of mind. She's probably forgotten all about me by now, more concerned about her next meal and a meal for her daughter.
My problems are so trivial.