The other day I was having a conversation with someone and it became unbelievably clear to me that no one here has had any form of closure following Adam's death. Even more of a wake up call was czeano's speech in North Carolina about Adam and the Martini of Death. So I want to share the following with you.
Here's everything I know about September 10, 2001.
Adam sent the message to panamaus, who in turn dialed 911. He is still my personal hero for doing so. I know that Adam sent him that message because he knew David would do the right thing. I think Adam was afraid of dying alone.
The detective told me that they arrived at the house and sent a plain-clothed officer around to the back of the house to assess the situation. They knew he was armed. The computer was in the basement in the townhouse. The officer witnessed Adam sitting at the computer; he radioed the dispatcher to call the house. The dispatcher called the house, spoke with Adam and encouraged him to come out of the house; they could help him. The officer reported that he went out of view. Within a few minutes they heard a gunshot.
The police radioed into dispatch requesting permission to enter the house. They had to wait 10 minutes for the sheriff to arrive. They then entered the house in full riot gear, as they did not know whether or not Adam had been alone in the house. They turned all the beds upside down, tossed the closets, and knocked over furniture. Adam's body was found in the laundry room in the basement. The only uncarpeted room in the house. He had cleared a space and put down several blankets. He had been wearing a black t-shirt and shorts. He had used a Beretta rifle, relatively low caliber, with a heavier gauge dove shot.
I learned after the fact that there was someone outside during all of this, someone who knew about Adam's message to David. For her, I will always have the deepest respect for going there, calling him endlessly, trying to talk to him, and according to the detective, begging to go in to talk to Adam.
I was at work, and had just returned from running. I sent Adam an IM. The police were there in the house when I sent it asking him about his decision. We had been discussing our current living arrangements and the possibility of trying to make things work. I inadvertently got the worst answer. The only reply I got was a cell phone number and the urging to call ASAP. My first thought was, "Huh, I guess he switched his phone to his own account." So I filled up my cup of water and called.
When the detective answered the phone, my stomach tightened. I said, "Yea, Hi, I'm trying to reach Adam Purcell."
The detective asked me who I was, I told him, "Jennifer Purcell."
He asked, "Are you the wife of Adam Purcell?"
I said, "Yes."
At that exact moment, I knew he had done it. I blurted out to the detective, "OH GOD, PLEASE TELL ME HE DIDN'T KILL HIMSELF."
There was nothing but silence on the other end. The detective audibly took in a deep breath and said, "Ma'am, I hate to tell you this over the phone, but yes, he has died. I'll need to..."
I stopped hearing everything because I was crying. I cried and sobbed and then cried some more, all the time though, the anger was building in me. The officer said, "Where are you right now, ma'am?"
I told him, "I'm in my office, at work."
"Where do you work?" he asked.
"I work at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda," I replied.
He continued, "Have you been there all morning?"
I said, "Yes."
"When was the last time that you saw Adam?" He asked.
I realized that I was a suspect. I had a momentary flash of confusion. I could not understand why they would suspect me of doing something to him. Regardless of any problems that Adam and I had ever had, I never stopped loving him.
I started to cry harder, and the detective apologized for having to ask these questions, that he had no doubt that it was a suicide, but that he had to ask as a formality. He asked if he could call me back in about 20 minutes, hoping that I would be able to talk then. I gave him my phone numbers and hung up the phone. I then picked up the phone and threw it.
Blind rage, anger, and unimaginable pain took over. I was in the middle of my office flipping out. Picking up things, throwing them and screaming a stream of profanity. I shared an office with a guy named Ernie, an older Filipino guy who I absolutely adored. He had been on the phone while I was crying. He hung up and asked me what was wrong.
I screamed at him, "He fucking did it. He fucking killed himself. I can't fucking believe he actually did it. What the hell am I going to tell Elizabeth? How will Dylan ever understand it? I can't fucking believe he'd do this to them."
I sat down and sobbed. He went to go get someone who could help me to deal with it. He went and got my friend Dawn. Others who had heard me yelling came in to see what was wrong. I looked straight through them, like they weren't even there. They looked afraid of me; screaming and throwing things was not my normal office behavior. I couldn't talk to them, I could even imagine telling them what had happened. I figured that if they couldn't figure it out, someone would tell them, sooner or later. Sailors love to gossip.
Dawn came in and held me while I cried for what seemed like forever. The next thing I knew, I looked up and my boss was there, along with the Commanding Officer and the Executive Officer, who wanted all to know if I was OK. They asked if I wanted to talk to the chaplain. I said, "NO." They sent for the command's chaplain anyway. Our chaplain was actually a rabbi. When he arrived, Dawn asked me if I wanted him there, and then she sent him away so that I didn't have to.
The detective called back. Dawn talked to him for a few minutes, and then I talked to him for a few minutes. I answered his questions and asked several of my own. I then hung up and sat there. Numb.
We left the office and drove north to the townhouse. The detective met us at the door. The medical examiner had not yet arrived, so I was not allowed to go down to the basement. I wandered around the kitchen, and saw what a mess it was. I found moldy pizza in the refrigerator, rotting food in the sink, over 50 empty Coke cans littered everywhere, and a stack of mail that was piled on the kitchen table. I felt like I wasn't really there; my body was there, but my mind wasn't.
I needed to make some phone calls, so I asked for Adam's cell phone; he had numbers in it for his father at work. The police brought me Adam's cell phone; it had been turned off. I turned it on and found that there were several voicemail messages that had not been heard. I listened to pleas for Adam's life, and I cried more. I tried to regain my composure as I dialed Adam's father at work. Donald was in a meeting when I called. I told the woman that answered the phone, "I'm sorry to ask this of you, but I have to speak with him, I need you to go get him, tell him that Jennifer is on the phone and that it is about his son Adam."
She went and got Donald, and when he picked up the phone I could hear from his tone that he knew why I was calling. I said, "Donald, I'm so sorry to have to call and tell you this. But, Adam finally did it this time; he killed himself. I'm so sorry."
I'm not sure if he could understand everything that I said, I was crying so hard at that point, but he understood what I was telling him. He cried, and screamed; I cried along with him. To this day, I know that this was the worst phone call I've ever had to make. I hated telling Donald. I told him everything I knew, that the police were still there, and we briefly discussed that we'd need to do to make arrangements for Adam's body.
The next day, of course, things went from bad to worse. The following few days were a mess of phone calls and discussions; arrangements, legal matters and logistics. My friend Dawn and her husband Andy did so much for me during that time, from cleaning up the blood in the basement to buying plane tickets to Texas; I could not have taken care of it all without them.
In the end, here is what was arranged for Adam's final trip:
We chartered a boat out of Galveston. The sky was pale blue with wispy clouds, slightly hazy, but shockingly clear for that part of the Gulf. It had rained the whole trip down from Baytown, and I was worried that it would rain while we were out there on the water; it didn't. The sun broke through the clouds and shined like crazy, making it rather hot and sticky. My dress was clinging to my shoulders and back as I held the canister tight to my chest. The water looked unsettled and ready to get angry at the slightest offense. There are all sorts of refineries there on the coast, and you could see their hulking industrial shapes on the horizon.
I sat on a bench towards the front center of the boat, with Dawn to my right, and Leiba to my left. We sat there silently, the entire way out. I had tears streaming down my face the whole way. Their deluge did not stop until later that night. I kept thinking to myself:
"Adam, damn it, I'm sorry I wasn't there for you... I should've been, but I'll see you to the end... this is what you wanted... and I'm doing it... until the end; I'll carry you to the end. I'm so FUCKING SORRY I FAILED YOU."
I kept clutching that canister for dear life, like if I'd let go of it, it would just fly away. Or, that if I let go of it, I'd just lose all hope of sanity right there and then.
The captain of the charter had only scattered ashes once before this trip. He had scattered the ashes of his father. He took us to that same spot in the Gulf. The boat had a stereo and speaker system. His mother played some music and everyone gathered around toward the back of the boat. The time was there, and I couldn't do it. I could not let go of that canister that was anchoring me to sanity. I asked Donald if he would do it for me, because I just couldn't. The song ended and the next one came on.
Donald took out Adam's knife and opened the canister. He cut the plastic bag open and began to scatter the ashes into the blue green water off the back of the boat. It was windy out on the water, and the ashes flew up from the canister as they were flowing out and floated in the sea breeze; coating all of our clothes in his remains. As Donald continued to pour them, Aaron reached down into the stream of ashes and ground bone; he grabbed a handful and brought it to his lips and kissed it. With tears in his eyes, Adam's baby brother let them go into the water. Adam's grandmother had brought flowers, and cast them into the ocean when we were done.
I can remember the smell of the ashes mixed in with the smell of the diesel fuel from the boat's engine. I can remember how the captain of the charter rang the ships bell for a departing member; an archaic little naval thing, but it hit me and Aaron, and we both cried harder.
We went back to shore after a bit and then back to his grandparents' house. My whole body hurt; my shoulders were cramped, I had no idea how tightly I'd been holding that canister at the time. I could feel the sweat under my arms on my neck and wanted to just run away from all of them.
Before I left I talked to Aaron briefly. The last time that he and Adam had talked or seen each other, they'd had an argument. I told him about how Adam had called me the night of their argument, and how I'd told him to go get a hotel room and deal with it in the morning, and then, how I'd asked Adam about it a week later, and he was insulted that I'd insinuate that he'd remain angry with Aaron. Adam loved him dearly.
Aaron said, "Jen, he never stopped loving you, he just stopped loving himself."
"I will always be there for your kids, my Dad and I are the closest thing that they will have to knowing Adam, and I plan on being a part of their lives."
I hugged him, and then Dawn and I left. We drove back to a hotel near the airport and she opened up a bottle of wine and we drank that, then went to dinner in the hotel - where I got unbelievably drunk. We went back upstairs, and I put Elizabeth to bed; she rubbed my back as I fell asleep.
That was the day I scattered his ashes.
I hope this helps.
If you still have questions, just ask me.