|184 Child Street
Wednesday February 6, 2013 7:36 p.m.
On July 9, 1993 my Dad, Mario Vara came downstairs and told me "Davy I need to talk to you."
I was watching TV and my mom was in the kitchen cooking.
I told my Dad I would be right up.
Less than 5 minutes later, I heard a loud bang will never forget.
The sound, forever etched in my mind.
As I raced up the stairs, I could see my Dad laying on the floor.
My Dad committed suicide with his shotgun.
I will never know what my Dad wanted to tell me.
As my Dad's body was being brought out in a body bag, several Rochester, NY Police officers stood out front, smoking cigarettes, laughing.
I will never forget RPD Detective Lou Aletto and the smile he had on his face.
Later that same day, people stopped by throughout the night showing their support.
Many who loved my Dad, like Rochester City Councilwoman Nancy Padilla, comforted my mom.
Even Bob Lonsberry who at the time was a columnist for the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper, and who had written about my Dad and his work many times, stopped by to write a piece on my Dad's death.
I hated 184 Child Street after that.
It was never the same knowing my Dad died there.
Knowing how he died.
But my mom did not want to leave.
And I couldn't leave her alone.
So I stayed.
We only used a part of the house.
Half, if that.
My mom never slept upstairs again.
We never went into my parents room again, where my Dad took his life.
His clothes still hung in the closet.
There was a hole in the wall where the shotgun slug went into when it passed through his chest.
On the other side of the wall, was the bathroom wall, behind the bathtub.
The wood on the wall had splintered.
It's where the slug hit, when it went through my Dad and the bedroom wall.
But it never came through the bathroom wall.
Every time I would take a shower I couldn't help but look at the wall and remember what my Dad did.
I hated 184 Child Street.
So many memories there.
More bad ones than good ones.
Like when Rochester Police officers broke in my home illegally, without warrants several times.
And abused me and my family.
In 1986 RPD officers Randall "Rambo" Benjamin and Mark Mariano kicked down our door when a neighbor who was an alcoholic, and would beat his wife called the police after my Dad refused to give him money for beer.
Benjamin and Mariano pointed guns at us.
They yelled at me "Grab your dog before we shoot it!"
I was terrified.
That one incident completely changed the way I looked at police.
I never trusted them after that.
That incident is what led to me becoming an activist against police misconduct.
Since the RPD hated my Dad because of his work, there were many incidents where they came to 184 Child Street.
To intimidate him and retaliate against him, and me.
Like the time that RPD officer Nick Joseph, who is in prison now for a hit and run in Greece where he was high on cocaine and alcohol, came into my home with RPD officer LaMar Cousins, pointed his gun at me, assaulted me, handcuffed me then threw me face first against his open cruiser door.
It was retaliation for my having videotaped his brother, David Joseph, also an RPD officer, weeks earlier, abusing a Jamaican motorist during a traffic stop.
The video ended up on R News.
As I look back I struggle to recall good memories about the house.
I'm sure there were some.
I mean friends coming over.
My mom or dad standing on the porch calling me to come in when the street lights came on.
Me yelling back from the church parking lot "In a minute mom, we're finishing the kickball game!"
But in many ways that house sucked many years out of me.
Many years of dealing with depression, especially after my Dad's death.
And in the years after my brother finally convinced my mom to move out, and the house sat boarded up, I avoided driving by there.
And sometimes I didn't.
Sometimes it's like I wanted to see the house.
But for the most part I still hated it.
I hated the bad memories.
Which is why it's weird that as soon as I learned that it had been torn down, it hit me hard.
I had to go and see it.
As I pulled up with my sons David and Danny, and saw the excavator on top of all the rubble, my eyes began to water.
And the whole time I've been writing this, I have been crying,
I guess in some ways knowing the house was still there, I still felt a connection.
A connection to my childhood.
And now, knowing that the rubble will soon be gone, only to be replaced most likely by another empty city lot, it feels like a part of me died with the house.
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