Our Names Are Tomas and Juana Bonilla

September 21, 2011

On October 31st 2010 we returned to the house after collecting candy on Halloween with our kids and our grandson Jadan. We talked by phone with our daughter Zurisaday, 19, who was in the house of her boyfriend Eduardo, 21, with their daughter Naomi, 14 days old. Eduardo and Zurisaday had argued, and she asked us to pick her up.

When we arrived at Eduardo’s house, he said he would kill himself and left in his truck. When we returned home, Zurisaday was very concerned about what Eduardo had said. We were all together in my bedroom; my wife and my daughter, Itzel, prayed, asking God to calm Eduardo and to take those thoughts away from him. Suddenly, the lights went off, we heard a roar, and we all fell. Eduardo had crashed his truck into the house.

When we finally got up, we looked up for our children and grandchildren. First we found Itzel, then Tommy and Jaydan, and then Naomi, who had suffered a serious head injury. We helped Magali to free herself from debris, as the impact had made her fly through the roof of the house, suffering multiple fractures to her face and jaw. (Later, we discovered that she also had a blood clot in her brain.) Finally we found Zurisaday, who had already died.

My wife left the house, walked to Eduardo, and told him that Zurisaday had died. He didn’t believe my wife and wanted her to tell him that Zurisaday was fine. She asked him why he did what he did. We went to the hospital with our children, and when we got there, we were told that Naomi had also not survived.

On November 5th, at the same time we were burying Zurisaday and Naomi, Magali was undergoing another surgery. The doctors spoke to us by phone to let us know that she was fine. That was a very difficult time, because we had to leave Magali alone in the hospital to bury Zurisaday and Naomi.

Eduardo’s parents asked for forgiveness for what their son had done. With tears in our eyes, we wholeheartedly told them we felt no hatred for either them or Eduardo. We allowed them to be present at the funeral service and the rosary for our loved ones; how could we deny them to stay, since they too are Naomi’s grandparents and shared the immense pain of her loss? They were another family suffering from the same tragedy.

We’ll never forget Zurisaday and Naomi. Our hearts will never cease to love them. Not a day goes by without remembering them.

We didn’t ask for a life sentence or the death penalty for Eduardo. We believe that everyone has the right to live. We know what it means to lose loved ones; the pain is immense. We don’t believe it’s right to take the life of a human being, for it not only punishes the offender but also his or her entire family. It would create more suffering for another mother, another father, another sibling.

We were wondering, “How can murder by the state be a legitimate punishment for the murder of an individual?” To us, each of those murders are the same. They each cause the same kind of pain and sorrow.

Believe me, there is no difference, because the same pain is given to another family, which will be punished indeed. Have you given any thought to that mother, to that family that would live each day waiting for the execution of their son? Don’t you believe that it is inhumane?

We believe that the justice system should focus on psychologically counseling these people and on rehabilitating their lives, not on killing them. Taking their lives is an act of vengeance; we don’t believe in revenge because it poisons the soul of the people.

From our own experience, we can tell that everyone expects us to seek revenge. Many people trying to comfort us said, “It must happen the same to him” or “Hopefully, someone will kill him in prison.” We believe that society is poisoned with bitterness, hatred and revenge, but those emotions will never bring back our loved ones. We don’t want our loved ones to be the excuse to continue killing people through the use of the death penalty.

The best example we can give to our children is to teach them forgiveness, not resentment. We don’t want our children to grow up believing that if someone does harm, the victim is entitled to do the same in order to feel avenged, satisfied, cured. We don’t believe this.

Forgiveness and family support helped us a lot to overcome the pain and to move on. We shared the same grief with the family of Eduardo: besides having their son in jail, they had also lost a granddaughter and suffer knowing that their son is to blame for that loss. It is very sad. We believe that every human being deserves a second opportunity to amend and deserves to be given the means to join a better society. Prisons don’t only have to punish, but rather need to give the opportunity to teach offenders that there is something better. We believe that in prison there are many repented people, and with the right monitoring programs, they could be reinstated into society.

Sometimes our society is very hard, unforgiving, condemning, punishing, and it doesn’t give opportunities for healing and hope to families who have lost loved ones.

We are a small part of the society that doesn’t believe that revenge and hatred are the cure to stop the violence.

A Family With a Lot of Hope in Change

This article first appeared in CMN’s September 2012 newsletter.

Hay una versión en español de este recurso.