‘I had a brother. He was my mother’s first son with her first husband. He was three years old when I was born and, as we grew up, we were best buddies. I have all the memories you can imagine. We hiked, we biked, we chased girls. We smoked, we drank, and we got matching tattooes. He was taller and had more of a presence than I ever did and he made life more of an adventure than I imagined it could be. He was everything I wanted to be until he started having these crazy breakdowns. He would become another person and sometimes, it was like he wasn’t even a person. He’d either become completely silent or he’d get violent. I didn’t mind the silence. Sometimes, I’d try to help him ride it out but when he got violent, he’d scare me, my mother, and my sisters. He would threaten that he was going to kill himself or that he would set fire to our house while we slept.

My father bought a gun and showed me and my mother how to use it if we ever had to. I never thought I’d have to until that terrible night. My father was away and my mother, my sisters, and I were watching TV. My brother had been silent for several days and there was a tension hanging around us all. He’d gone out and was gone for a day or so after an argument with my mother and she’d told him not to come back until he’d calmed down That night, at about eleven o’clock, he came home. He wasn’t calm. We had locked the doors and he started beating on the door, almost to the point that he was going to break it down. He had a hatchet and he started chopping at the door to get in.

As he nearly destroyed the door, my mother and sisters ran to hide in one of the back rooms. I ran to get my father’s gun and, as my brother was coming through the door, I shot him. He screamed and fell and, when he tried to get up, I shot him again. I’d never seen anyone die before but he stopped breathing right in front of my eyes. To this day, I’m still haunted by the fact that I killed my mother’s son. I killed my brother. It was treated as self-defense, of course, but that doesn’t sweeten the pot. We’re taught that life is precious and that we should hold on to it as long as we can. But, sometimes, life can get ugly and when it does, you have to do what you have to do.’

Dear Salt Lakers,

This man did not want me to take his portrait and understandably so. He sent me this photograph of an angel that, he told me, sits on his brother’s grave. I’ve never seen or heard such pain when I’ve talked to strangers. I can’t change anything that happened to this man. I can’t change anything that happens to anyone I interview. But I can listen and I can validate. I can help the people I meet to know that whatever their story is and, no matter how brave they have to be to share it, there’s power in letting it out into the open, to letting it breathe, and, in so doing, I think they find peace and healing. I hope they do.

Humans of Salt Lake City

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