In the early morning hours of September, 11, 2009, David A. Flores broke into the Griffith, IN, home of sisters Kristen Kennedy (25) and Jennifer Evans (28.)  Flores raped Kristen, and then stabbed both to death with a kitchen knife. He placed their bodies in a bathroom, set it on fire, shut the bathroom door and fled. The closed door caused the fire to smother out, leaving both corpses burnt and blackened. After a day of failed attempts to communicate with his daughters via phone, their father went to the house. There, after having to force the bathroom door open, he found the charred, mutilated bodies of his daughters. David Flores is a twice convicted rapist, who was out of jail for less than two months before deciding to savagely end the lives of these two women.

The morning of September 12, 2009, a friend called me, devastated. She knew the two women – they were neighbors. She knows the family. She knows the father. Shortly after I hung up the phone with her, I had a moment of clarity. A thought I’d had for years finally manifested itself in its most simple form…

Justice only happens in real time.

There is nothing that can be done to bring back those two women. There is no punishment. There is no apology. They are gone forever. You cannot un-murder or un-rape anyone. You cannot erase the image of those dead daughters from their father’s memory.

The worst torture humanity could devise will never make that family whole again. In fact, the rest of us will have to pay for the incarceration, legal process, and perhaps eventual execution of this murderer. His actions will cost all of us.

Justice? There will never be justice. In such cases justice is impossible. The only way justice could have been attained was if one of those women had shot him dead at the time of the attack…because justice only happens in real time. Justice can only be had the moment a violent felon decides to prey. Once the death of an innocent occurs, it cannot be reversed.

In class I ask my students to raise their hand if they “own their own life.” I then ask them if they have families, friends, children, spouses, significant others, co-workers, partners, students, pets, bills, responsibilities… I then ask them, again, “Who owns their own life?” Not a single hand ever goes up. Yes, we are all mortgaged to the hilt.

I will be armed and dangerous till the day they drag my dead carcass off to the morgue. I have people in my life who care about me and need me here. Auto accidents happen – heart attacks – lightning strikes… But a crackhead in a parking lot with friction tape on the handle of a kitchen knife will not remove me from this Earth. I will not allow it. My father will not bury me.

I’m not suggesting vigilantism. I’m suggesting that we have a duty to protect our own lives. We need to do so for those who need us here tomorrow, and going out into the world unarmed when one has the ability and capability to do so is irresponsible. Yes, self-defense brings with it new responsibilities. And yes, weapons are not for everyone. Self-defense also brings its own bundle of emotional, spiritual, legal and monetary problems. But one thing is certain, if we are dealing with those problems it’s because we are ALIVE. The alternative is your family crying over your coffin. Some consider use of force to stop violence the job of the police. Some have a morality which states it is better to be murdered than to fight back against an aggressor. Some have never considered such things. Some are simply afraid. The time to confront all of it is now, not when you’re attacked.

Perhaps your conclusion will be to remain passive. If so, you can rest in peace knowing your murderer may one day be caught and incarcerated, for a little while, at least.  Then again, maybe he/she won’t. Maybe they’ll go on to widow someone else’s wife and orphan someone else’s children; and maybe they’ll do it again within two months of being released.

There are consequences for everything we do, including doing nothing. We make our choices. It’s the only real justice there is. And that justice is always served.