Back To Philadelphia
(Maureen Faulkner, my new hero)
I crossed over the bridge into Philadelphia seeing the somewhat familiar skyline for the first time since I left in 2004.
There is no need to pretend that I wasn’t nervous as the creeping fear of the unknown filled me with the apprehension that comes with the knowledge that I was coming back to a city that I knew was inhabited by people who have killed before. People, whom I have no doubt might want to just go ahead and take a shot at me.
However, as I drove into the familiar territory of South Philadelphia, where I worked for some time, I got less nervous and more excited.
Pretty soon, I saw the blazing neon lights of both Pats and Genos Steaks. The latter of which was my destination. I was there because that was where Maureen Faulkner and Michael Smerconish were signing copies of their new book "Murdered By Mumia" and I was to meet up with friends who, for obvious reasons, must remain un-named.
Not seeing my comrades and being driven at this point more so by my rumbling stomach than either fear or excitement I jumped in line for one of Genos world famous cheese-steaks. There were two lines stretching around the building, threatening at times to burst into the street. One for steaks and the other for books.
On all sides of me people were clutching Faulkner’s book, laughing, talking excitedly as I listened and watched patiently for my friends to arrive. Behind me an older man was quite articulately explaining the Faulkner murder to two women that he was with as he held his signed copy of "Murdered By Mumia" in a way that all could see it.
There were cops in uniform all around, but there was no tension in the cold air this night. It seems like the Mumia crowd decided to sit out this particular book event and so what could have been an ugly situation, was instead more of a street festival than anything else. The line I was in for cheese-steaks was long, but the line of people standing in the cold to have their books signed was much longer.
I could barely make out Maureen Faulkner and Michael Smerconish in a tent-like contraption just a dozen or so feet from the large plaque of Officer Faulkner’s image that has graced the front of Joey Vento’s establishment for the past several years. Eventually I got my steak "wit wiz", and for the first time in probably half a decade I had a proper cheese-steak. By the end of the evening I would have had another courtesy of Joey Vento and half of another courtesy of a friend determined to ensure that I had my fill.
I soon found my friends who had been there all along, but whom I missed in the large crowd of people, and we ended up making our way out of the cold for an hour, maybe two, as the time kind of flowed along with the conversation. When we got back over to Genos we were surprised to see people still in line for their books to be signed, at night, and in the cold no less.
That is what you call dedication.
I had already received my copy of the book as it arrived in the mail the day of it’s release and had been pleased to see that all of the information I provided Maureen made it into the final edit, as was this website’s address and the mention of the murder of John Gilbride.
A few days prior to coming to Philadelphia I taped a segment via satellite for Fox News to talk about the new book. And now I was here, in Philly, the home of amongst many other things, The MOVE Organization.
Though it was my intent to at some point speak with Maureen Faulkner in person as there was something I needed to say to her, I didn’t want to bother her after she had just spent hours signing books and shaking hands. However, my host for the night was insistent that I meet her than and there.
So off we went, into the back room of Genos where Maureen was taking shelter from the cold and preparing to leave. I was introduced and much to my surprise she jumped up to give me a big hug. Not exactly the response I expected from someone whom I spent many an hour trashing online, offline, around the country with MOVE on speaking engagements etc...I mean I knew she was aware of my post-MOVE efforts, but from my point of view she was far too kind and generous to me. Just as soon as I meekly apologized, she remarked "for what?" and I quickly came to understand why so many people hold this woman in such high regard.
She is not only brave in the face of adversity, but she is gracious and understanding as well. Her companion Paul, whom I also met that night for the first time was equally gracious. I had previously learned that he was the brains behind the Daniel Faulkner website and the man who had long stood unknown behind Maureen. To be sure, there are many people out there who without his online work would be that much more ignorant about this case and would have fallen for the Jamal propaganda campaign.
To the point, I couldn’t do a lot of what I do were it not for the ground already broken by Paul and Maureen. I cannot say enough about her and am fortunate to have met Paul and enjoyed greatly, our conversations. They are good people, not at all the demons that Maureen especially has been made out to be by my former comrades of MOVE.
The next day, I was live on the Michael Smerconish show and did a segment with Maureen. I gave the very brief explanation of my involvement with MOVE and was able to speak briefly about John Gilbride’s murder. Michael was intense and professional and it is easy to see why he is a success at what he does. His devotion to getting the truth out about this case has helped pave the way for me and many others who can cut through the pro-Jamal rhetoric with ease.
Maureen, on the air again took time to not only be kind to me, but expressed her gratitude to me for my work. It was something that she didn’t have to do, but she took her valuable time on the air to do so publicly and her kindness rendered me speechless.
Later on in the day I made my way to the Union League in downtown Philadelphia, which was not too far from where Jamal shot down Officer Faulkner for a luncheon that was to mark the "official" relase of the book.
It was a sold-out event of 500 people that had all of it’s tickets sold only an hour after being announced. I had the chance to cut through the front of the line and get in before the other people who had been patiently standing in line. It was an opprotunity that I was not comfortable in taking. A friend kindly opined that if anyone had a right to get in first it was me, but that is not the way I felt. I am just a person who writes about what I know and what I have seen and that is all. So, I took my place comfortably amongst the other people waiting in line.
The luncheon was hosted by long-time media personality, Larry Kane, who was able to mark the event by emphasizing the need for justice as well as noting the tenacity of those involved in prosecuting the case, and for Maureen Faulkner for seeing it through.
Maureen took the stage, made some brief remarks and read a heart-wrenching passage from her book. It was the story of how she learned of her husband’s death and how here whole world was shattered, of how she as a 25 year old widow, had crawled in between her parents in bed to be comforted. Her reading of her recollection left few dry eyes and was a reminder that death takes much more than just one single life.
Michael Smerconish lightened things up in his usual gregarious way and mentioned the "Today Show" and how he had read that the "new photos" would be brought up by Matt Lauer. He relayed this to Maureen whom he said went ghostly white when she heard it, and not for the reason that proponents of the photos would like to expect. That is because she heard "nude photos" and not "new photos". It was a moment of humor needed at an event of sadness, remembrance, and about a lingering injustice.
Perhaps the most compelling part of the afternoon was the speech of PA Governor Ed Rendell. It was Rendell who was DA during Jamal’s trial as was he during the MOVE trial in 1978. He has long been a target of pro-Jamal supporters as he has gone up the political ladder, much to their dismay. He spoke of going to Europe and seeing pro-Mumia graffiti, being confronted by the former First Lady of France, who supported Mumia, but not surprisingly, knew next to nothing about the case.
It was all classic Rendell, polished, funny, for the people kind of stuff. However, at mid-point in his speech the gravity of the situation seemed to grab hold of him and he did the most unlikely thing for a politician to do. He chocked up and was clearly forcing back tears. People looked around in surprise, un-acquainted with an experienced politico being so obviously racked with emotion. It was obvious that his interest in this matter transcended that of an upwardly mobile public figure, there for the photo-ops. For him, for me, for most of us who were there that day, this is not about slogans or crass politics. It is more about humanity. It is what the Mumia movement claims to be, but cannot ever be, it is authentic.
So, I met briefly with Maureen and Paul again before leaving and I recognized on my way home that I have closed one chapter in my life and am starting another. This is not an issue about a dead police officer and an opportunistic cult member, who killed a cop. It is about justice and surviving the worst of adversity and turning around all of that pain and anger and hurt into something positive.
The charity in Daniel Faulkner's name, which is the beneficiary of the monies earned from Faulkner’s book drives that point home. It is a charity that does not scream for death, but helps to enable people to move on from tragedy and live their lives to the fullest. It helps the children of murder victims to go to school and fulfill the dreams that their parents would have had for them. It is the proverbial silver lining in Officer Faulkner’s sacrifice and the years of pro-Mumia rubbish that has outraged the people of Philadelphia who know the truth and now have a book of record, in addition to court transcripts to tell this story.
It is one that needs to be told as it is a story of heroes and of survival much more so than about crime and punishment.
Buy this book, buy two, and give one away for the Holidays.
In a world of reckless hate often stripped of meaning, it is an example of a life lived with honor and service, a story of love that is and was real, and a reminder that there are still things worth fighting for.