Arizona Illustrated Episode 525

Arizona Illustrated Episode 525


(Latino music) – [Tom] This week on
Arizona Illustrated, working to identify migrants who have perished in the desert. – This limbo, this not knowing
if they’re alive or dead and if they are dead,
has the body been found, but nobody has put
two and two together. – [Tom] Finding a new
path after prison. – [Matthew] When
I was in prison, I really thought about
the people that I had hurt and the damage
that I had caused. – [Tom] What to say
and what not to say when grief is in the heart. – The perfect thing
to say was I love you. – [Tom] And Far Afield with
Tucson Poet TC Tolbert. – You often mistake reflection
for its lyrical sibling and it hurts to see
anything this late. (Latino music) – Welcome to Arizona
Illustrated, I’m Tom McNamara. In the midst of the
national conversation on illegal immigration, often
what gets lost are the stories of people making the
dangerous journey which, in many cases, leads
to their death. Producer Vanessa Barchfield
brings us the story of Tucsonans working to
find and identify those who don’t survive. Here is What Remains. (reverent music) Due to the sensitive
nature of this content, viewer discretion is advised. (car traveling on highway) – We are at mile seven
on South Mission Road, not far from Mission San
Javier, not far from Tucson, we’re not far from
Sahuarita and a human being disappeared here in this
spot where we’re standing. (gentle acoustic guitar music) – This is an individual
who was found with no other personal effects, no clothing,
no backpack, nothing. Found on the Tohono
O’odham Nation in August of last year, 2018. The condition of his
remains suggest to us that he probably lay out
there for one to three months. (gentle acoustic guitar music) – Nancy was from Lima, Peru. She had two daughters
who lived in New York. She hadn’t seen them in years. She was getting
extremely depressed and when she lost
her job in 2009, that was the last straw
and she took off North. Nancy had died her hair
white to look older so that she wouldn’t be abused
or raped during her journey. – This is the humorous,
the upper arm bone that we can see on him
and one of the reasons we know he’s a teenager
is that that bone hadn’t fully fused,
so there was cartilage between this part of the bone
and the main part of the bone, so he could have gotten taller. (gentle acoustic guitar music) – She took buses all the
way through Central America and Mexico and then she
joined up with a coyote, with a guide, and another
group of other migrants. They crossed the international
boundary pretty quickly on foot and then they
were met by a vehicle that drove them North. Border Patrol pulled
up behind them. Everyone who could escape the
van ran out into the desert, including Nancy. From there she was just
missing and the family began what would be
a years-long process of trying to find
out what happened. – Right now we don’t
know who he is, we have no leads
to his identity. – As soon as Nancy disappeared,
the family actually flew out to this area and searched
the desert themselves, interviewed witnesses. I met with them in a
hotel off the side of I-10 and took a missing persons
report, tried to go to report at police where they
were turned away. They went to Border
Patrol themselves, they visited consulates. – We’re hoping that
his mother, his father or another family
member eventually
reaches out and tells us that he went missing. (typing) Not only is loss,
personal loss a tragedy, this limbo, this not knowing
if they’re alive or dead, and if they are dead,
has the body been found but nobody has put
two and two together. Or are they still
laying out there? Part of what we do here is to
determine how somebody died, the manner of death,
their cause of death, and then help law enforcement
with identification. (pickup truck
traveling on highway) – We now know that actually
her remains were found in 2011 about three and a half
miles north of here. It took, however, until 2017
for that cranium that was found to be identified as Nancy’s. – We’ve had a slow motion
mass disaster played out over the last 19, 20 years. 3,000 people have
come into this office for a postmortem examination. Some were bodies of
people who died that day or the day before. Other people were
just represented by a single sun-bleached bone. Of those 3,000, 2,000 have
been identified as a specific individual, all from south
of the U.S.-Mexico border. (gentle acoustic guitar music) (car driving on road) (reverent music) We’re in the Tohono O’odham
Nation, the San Javier District and we’re working with Tohono
O’odham Police Department on these two mock death
scenes, if you will. – [Investigator]
That’s at six, four. – [Bruce] One is a typical
scatter of remains by animals of somebody who dies
on the desert floor. The other one, somebody
who dies in a dry wash and then their body
decomposes, it skeletonizes and then when the waters come,
as we know they always will, some of the bones get
washed downstream. – [Investigator] This
is kind of exposed, ready to be photographed
and then removed. – [Bruce] We always like to talk to the law enforcement
officers who are responsible for recovering these remains because we do very few recovers. The Pima County Office
and the Medical Examiner, very rarely do we send an
anthropologist or pathologist or an investigator out to a
scene, so we’re almost totally reliant on the skills of
law enforcement officers. – That’s gonna indicate
I’ve got two individuals. Am I gonna be able to see,
oh, that other left tibia was found 100 yards from here. – [Bruce] We want them to
be as thorough as possible, which means not only
covering the widest area that makes sense, but
while you’re in that area, pay close attention to bones that can turn the
color of the sand. (reverent music) It’s not very pleasant at times. Some of the sites are horrific. Some of the smells are horrific. Using your gloved hands
on a decomposing body is assault to several
of your senses. These folks lived a
hard life and their skin and their teeth and their
bones reflect these stressors that have accumulated. This young man’s case,
he didn’t live too long, but he still has some of
these childhood stress marks written on his bones. – Something that I observed
about Bruce Anderson in the early 2000s,
he wrote by hand hundreds of missing
persons reports. Families were calling him
and he didn’t turn them away. It wasn’t the right place. Forensic anthropologist
usually isn’t taking missing persons reports. Usually you refer
that to police. Bruce knew that they
couldn’t go to police. (gentle acoustic guitar music) I started typing all
of his hand-written missing persons reports
into a database. One of them was for
a Guatemalan woman. He has stapled a beautiful
picture of her wearing traditional Guatemalan traje
to his hand-written report. And in addition to her name
and the date of disappearance and her age, he had written
on the margin a note that said she was a nice person
and that stood out to me. It was the representation
of someone who was not only collecting data as a
scientist, but also listening to a family and
being there with them in that moment of crisis. – I know that my best day
as a forensic anthropologist gleaning some really
important information that can lead to
an identification,
that then becomes the worst day a mother
or a wife could ever have because we now know this
John Doe has been identified as their son or their
husband, so I have to temper, I think most of us do,
temper our satisfaction with ourselves in doing
a good job by knowing that that’s the outcome. (gentle acoustic guitar music) – Forensic anthropology
can not only identify one individual person, but
it can also show patterns across many cases. (gentle acoustic guitar music) – The genetic estimate
of all living humans is that we’re 99.9% alike. In my job, I can
do a better service if I can find some
of those differences. (gentle acoustic guitar music) – There’s a quote from Ruth
Benedict that the purpose of anthropology is to
make the world safe for human difference. It’s a very precise science
that can come to interact with very deep human need
for answers, for truth and for justice. (gentle acoustic guitar music) – [Tom] Most of the photos
you saw in that story are of objects, including
shoes, ID cards and jewelry that were found
alongside human remains in Arizona’s border region. The photos are from
a national database of missing and
unidentified people. You can search the database
online at NamUs.gov. With growing prison populations
and changing perspectives on crime and punishment, the
call for criminal justice reform is gaining traction. One important question
is what comes after? How can formally
incarcerated people return to their
communities in a safe, healthy and productive way? (gentle acoustic guitar music) (traffic traveling
on interstate) – This bridge here is actually
an underpass underneath I-19 and this is where I lived
for a few years of my life. Being strung out on
heroin and cocaine, intravenously I was
using about $250 a day. I actually never went to prison for the drug distribution
that I was doing. I wound up going to
prison again as an adult for grand theft auto.
(starting car engine) When I was in prison,
(door closing) I really thought
about the people that I had hurt and the
damage that I had caused. So I made the decision
that when I got out I wouldn’t commit
any more felonies. It was the best I could do at
that time, no more felonies. Misdemeanors are okay,
but no more felonies. I was actually even fired
from my drug distribution job as the result of my felony. They’re like, well,
we don’t want felons doing transport for us. (buffing floor) I got a job as a janitor. It wasn’t my life’s
goal to be a janitor, but that was my starting point. – In 2006, May of 2006, I
was released from prison. I went to the treatment
center in Tucson, Arizona, and at that point, shortly
after you get there, you go on job search. (hanging clothes) How do you like
your new position? – [Woman] I like it. – Yeah. From the time I started
looking for employment when I got out of prison,
then to the time I got a job, I’d probably say
about 50 applications. Oh, yeah. Now, that’s not
including the cold calls. Hey, are you hiring? And it’s just daunting. – The idea is for us to
kinda shift our perspective on Biblical
characters so that… – I was about two
years in recovery, he was about a year
in recovery and we met going to a faith-based
recovery meeting. We got married in January
of 2010 and it’s been, like you bring your stuff
into your marriage and so, but when you live those
types of lifestyles, you bring a lot of stuff. (vacuuming) – [Matthew] So
you’ve done in there? – [Janitor] Yeah. – Jennifer and I purchased
TrueCore Cleaning in October of 2016. (vacuuming) I actually signed for the
purchase of the company on my 10-year sober anniversary. On that day I put
the pen to paper which is a tremendous testimony. We purchased TrueCore Cleaning
for a couple of reasons. One, we wanted to be able to do our non-profit work for free. Number two is we wanted
to have the opportunity to provide opportunities
for other people. – I appreciate my second chance. And I’m not gonna
take it for granted ’cause when I was in prison, I thought like all
the stuff I’ve done, so for me to have a second
chance is a blessing. – It’s just surreal
this is where I’m at. This is what we do,
this is who we are. And it took us a
while to get there. I tell people all the
time, I’m really honest, this is difficult,
but it’s doable. – I have compassion for
people, I have love for people, but I don’t do
well with excuses. I crawled out from
under a bridge and I didn’t spontaneously
combust into a
successful person. It took a lot of hard
work, a lot of pain, a lot of tears. It doesn’t happen overnight. And so just stay focused,
stay focused on your goals and drive towards them, no
matter what society tells you. (gentle music) – [Announcer] American Graduate, Getting to Work is
make possible by the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting. – Most all of us have known
someone who has suffered through the death
of a loved one. A common concern at these
times is what to say and what not to
say to survivors. Jeannette Mare, the Founder
of the Ben’s Bells Project in Tucson knows from experience
what helps and what hurts and how to choose better words. This is our story from 2015. (typing) – [Narrator] 13 years ago,
Jeannette came to realize that words can be more powerful
than she ever imagined. – Well, Ben is my son
and I have two sons. Matt was born first and
he was born on May 29th and then three years later Ben
was born on May 29th as well and we had sort of
happy, simple life and had these beautiful
kids and nearly three years after he was born, we lost him very suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a normal day, we
were home, I was home with Matt and Ben and
a friend was over, one of the kid’s friend
was over as well. Ben had a cold and I
wasn’t worried about him. What I didn’t know is
that he had croup virus and that his airway
was closing and it did, it closed suddenly and
the next thing I knew I was giving him CPR and the
ambulance was on its way. They arrived and they
resuscitated him, but he had been out
too long and so he died the next day in the hospital. Well, it was remarkable how
people swarmed around us. It was completely life-saving. I learned quickly that
when people talked a lot, and people sort of feel
the need to say something, it often hurt and it
wasn’t until later that I could sort of analyze why and I can certainly
speak to that now. But at the time, I just
knew that some stuff that people said just hurt. And I knew their
intentions were positive and they were trying to
help, but I also knew that the words
really, really stung. (typing) – [Narrator] Now Jeannette
calls on her linguistic training and personal experiences
to help others in similar situations use
their words for kindness, teaching what to say
and what not to say. – And again, I wanna
emphasize that I realize that this all comes from
good intention and I realize that I probably have also said
these things in my lifetime. And I recognize that the only
way that we can get better at this is if we talk about it. So, at least
statements, for example, at least you have another son. At least Ben died quickly. At least he didn’t suffer. At least you’re young enough
to have another child. Any sentence that
started with the words you should also hurt.
(laughing) You should write about this. You should do this,
you should do that. The statement, and this was
very, very common, be strong. Be strong. That one almost enraged me and
I had to really calm myself around that one, be strong. Because I guess what I, the
subtext for me in that statement is please stop crying
because you’re making people feel uncomfortable.
(laughing) Or what does be strong mean? I thought that the fact
that I was up and breathing and walking around
must be evidence enough that I was strong because,
man, I did not wanna be up and breathing and up and about. I wanted to be curled up. Any comment around what I
could have or should have done during his death was
absolutely impossible to hear. Somebody told me I should
learn how to do a tracheostomy. Somebody actually
said that to me. People would say
religious things. Again, that didn’t
hurt as badly, but I’m not a religious person, so that was sort of
interesting the things around God needing a little
angel and Ben being with God and Ben being in heaven
and that sort of thing. And there aren’t a lot of great
words, at least initially. So the things that felt
good were I’m sorry, but said in a way,
said in a tone that was really
vulnerable and real. It was more around people’s
tone and their feel than around actually what
they were saying necessarily. I very much appreciated when
people said I don’t know what to say, but I want
you to know I’m here, or I don’t know what
to say, but I love you. That was powerful. So I very much appreciated
people had the courage to come up to me and
say something to me, even if sometimes it wouldn’t
be the perfect thing to say. The perfect thing to
say was I love you, I’m hear, I’m
thinking about you, I’m gonna keep
checking in with you. – [Narrator] Sometimes
the most common phrases don’t project the message or
meaning the speaker intends. – So how are you,
linguistically,
again, is a greeting. We don’t expect the
real, oh, well, actually. It’s oh, yeah, I’m good,
how are you, I’m good. So there’s how are
you the greeting, which is actually, could be
dangerous in this situation, in a grieving situation. And then there’s how are
you, really wanting to know how the person’s doing. So sometimes just adding the
word today at the end of that, how are you doing today,
acknowledges that the grief process is sort of up and
down and all over the place. Grieving people are
supposed to feel sad. Sadness is not, it’s the right
thing for them to be feeling. So the supporter of the
grieving person’s job is not to cheer up
the grieving person. And so allowing them to
feel sad, but allowing them to feel safe and supported
while they feel sad is the job of a supporter. For us to have people around
us who love and care for us, who can just be in it
and not have to judge it or change it or fix it,
is incredibly powerful. – [Narrator] To cope
with their grief, Jeannette and her family
began working with clay in their back yard. On the first anniversary
of Ben’s death, family and friends hung
hundreds of handmade ceramic Ben’s Bells with messages of
kindness throughout Tucson. – Ben’s Bells comes
out of exactly what
we’re talking about. Ben’s Bells was born because
my family and I recognized how vital this
circle of community and kindness was around us. The kindness didn’t
take away the sadness. The kindness sort of protected
us while we felt the sadness and that made us feel safe. Supporting somebody who’s
grieving is a skill. We can’t just assume that
people are going to understand what kindness looks like in
these situations by osmosis. People actually need to
have these conversations. – You can find out
more about Ben’s Bells Education Programs and how to
volunteer at BensBells.org. And now from our
Far Afield series, we bring you Poet TC
Tolbert, recorded on location at the Snake Bridge on
Broadway Boulevard in Tucson. (traffic traveling
on interstate) – My name is TC Tolbert and
I am Tucson’s Poet Laureate and I’m gonna read a
poem about my existence as a transgender person
and thinking through names. By birth name is Melissa
and so reflecting on that. “In someone else’s home,
2018, February 8th, “you are sitting in front of
a considerable yellow mirror. “Carved into the frame of
the mirror are flowers, “the leaves of which
where they solo “could be mistaken for
thumbnails lined up at a salon, “waiting for the
arrival of the hands “to which they
should be attached. “There are fish under
water above you, “trying to tell the
night what is coming. “One fish in particular
has eyelashes “and a body covered in lines, “much like a topographical map. “You remember there
are tiny brooms “all over your own skin
that, even if you say stop, “will not stop. “You have said stop so many
times before to your own body, “whatever that is and the
lines being drawn upon it. “Now that testosterone
has occluded estrogen, “there must be fewer
bodies like yours or more, “it’s hard to say. “You often mistake reflection
for it’s lyrical sibling “and it hurts to see
anything this late. “The auburn closet to
your right was built “after the room was finished. “Closet isn’t exactly
the right word, “but neither is metal
bar with hangers inside “and a regular
collection of shelves. “You’ve always been
drawn to containers, “repositories of any kind, “strung with a simple
strip of cloth. “Perhaps this is why
you cannot call Melissa, “or even Missy, your dead name. “You understand the problems
with birth name and still, “you’ve spent so much
time bargaining to believe “every name you’ve
ever been called “points at least
partially to a body alive “that you are willing
to love today. “The mirror only returns parts “of what holds you to yourself, “no matter the angle “and in this way it
is just like language, “just like every
story about transition “with which you’ve
been harassed. “Faced with the haunting
of our innumerable, “we become severing. “Your prayer was severaled
like the night to which “you are repeatedly
hope-harnessed “and into which soon
enough you will pass.” (mellow music) – Thank you for joining us
here on Arizona Illustrated. I’m Tom McNamara. See you next week. (mellow music) (dramatic music)