Amanda Painter sat at the kitchen table in an unfamiliar apartment with an absurd dilemma: She had nothing to wear to a vigil for her three dead children.
Her clothes were at home, but her home was now a crime scene.
Less than 100 hours after her children were murdered, Amanda, 29, found herself in a Walmart, hobbling down the aisles, the gunshot wound to her neck concealed by a gauze bandage. She found a suitable purple shirt and kept her head down. She hadn’t expected to see so many children at the store, laughing and playing. For eight years, Amanda answered to “Mommy.” Now, her babies ― Odin, 8, Caydence, 6, and Drake, 4 ― were gone. Each time she closed her eyes, even to blink, they returned.
Last week, Amanda’s ex-husband, Justin Painter, 39, entered her home in Ponder, Texas, and fatally shot her boyfriend, Seth Richardson, 29, her three children and then himself. He intentionally kept Amanda alive, he told her, to live with the pain.
It was an unthinkable tragedy.
Two days later another unthinkable tragedy occurred, more than 300 miles away. A student opened fire in a high school in Santa Fe, killing 10. Both events were mass shootings ― that is, they each involved at least four fatalities ― and both were in Texas.
There’s no place worse than Texas when it comes to mass shootings. Since 2009, the state has experienced 20 incidents, the most of any state. In 65 percent of cases, the victims included a romantic partner or family member of the shooter, just like what happened to Amanda.
Yet most people only hear about the school shootings ― and not Amanda’s story.
When HuffPost interviewed Amanda, she had just been released from the hospital and was settling into an apartment 20 minutes away from her home, provided by the local domestic violence organization, Denton County Friends of the Family. Advocates stocked the apartment with comfort food, flowers, bath bombs and toiletries, and scribbled inspirational messages on the mirrors. “We are here for you!” someone had written in dry-erase marker. “This is a place to heal and feel safe.”
Amanda was visibly in pain, and moved slowly around the apartment, wincing.
She’d been asleep in bed with her boyfriend when her ex-husband showed up that morning. Seth was lying next to her, his arm wrapped around her body, his stomach pressed into her back, when Justin came in and shot Seth in the head. The bullet went through Seth’s body and into Amanda’s, fracturing her neck and breaking her ribs. Her physical injuries were nothing, she said, compared to her emotional pain. In conversation, Amanda would appear composed for a minute, sometimes two, but then her face crumpled, contorted by grief.
“Your life can always get worse,” she said, breaking down. “I don’t think mine can get any lower. Somehow, I’m still fucking standing, and I’m going to keep going, and I don’t know how, but I’m going to keep going.”
Everyone kept asking her what she needed, she said. The only thing she needed she couldn’t have.
“My kids were my coping mechanism, and now they are gone,” Amanda said. “He knew when he took them from me, he took everything. He’s won.”
SOURCE: Melissa Jeltsen