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In Memoriam Alex Spourdalakis: A Video Candlelight Vigil From Natalie and Anthony Palumbo
There is a candlelight vigil for Alex Spourdalakis at 7pm CDT at St. Cyprian Catholic Church, 2601 Clinton Street, River Grove, IL 60171. The vigil will be held outside in the garden. For those unable to attend and yet who want to honor and remember Alex's life, we invite you to share this video from our Contributing Editor Natalie Palumbo and her older brother Anthony, who has low verbal autism.
My name is Natalie. I just turned 19, and I am the younger sibling of a 22 year old brother with low verbal autism. I just graduated high school, and will be studying Motion Design at Ringling College of Art and Design in the fall. It’s my dream major at my dream college.
When I first heard about the stabbing death of Alex Spourdalakis, I was horrified. The thought that someone would brutally murder 14 year old Alex after he suffered a life of autism, pain, and medical apathy had me at a loss for words. However, my head was filled with overwhelming thoughts.
The questions haunting me most were, "How could this happen? Why was there no compassion for his suffering? Why did his life end so brutally?"
I have read many tragic stories about mothers taking their lives along with the lives of their children with autism rather than be separated, or continue to live with constant, overwhelming struggle. I weep at the thought that the remaining moments of Alex’s life were filled with such agonizing pain.
I tried to focus on other things, but I could not get the violent images out of my mind. I agonized with the thought that Alex didn’t go peacefully. As Anthony’s only sibling, these stories make me reluctant to trust anybody. I feel Anthony’s vulnerability for him – he is blissfully unaware, so I hurt for both of us.
To me, one of the most tragic things about this is the inaction of it all. There was no significant attention paid to Alex’s suffering during his life. Only in his death is Alex recognized for his suffering by major media. If there had been more compassion during his life, this tragedy could have been avoided. Maybe Alex’s peace would not have had to come with death. The images of Alex suffering in the hospital should have inspired the medical community to act. Alex’s suffering should have been the wake-up call, not his tragic death.
This tragedy made me re-examine my feelings of frustration with my brother. I enjoy him, but his OCD can be maddening, especially when I am working. He can interrupt me with the same question or thought every few minutes for several hours, which will prompt me to yell at him (for the millionth time) to wait for me in his room. The thought of Alex’s neglect and suffering made me question myself. I turned to my mom and asked, “Am I too hard on Anthony?” Her eyes welled up with tears because she knew why I was asking. She answered, “No baby – you are never cruel to your brother. You have never hurt him. He frustrates you, yes -- but you have never harmed him ever in word or action.”
I needed to express my sorrow for Alex. I wanted Anthony to be with me to show my devotion to protect him. I wanted to alarm our community that this tragedy could happen again unless we collectively vow to make the noise major media is slow to make. We need to do this for Alex. His life was too short, too painful, and his death too tragic. Once we blow out our candles, and dry our tears, public outcry must be next.
Natalie Palumbo is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.