Leave my daughter, take the car: A few words about Gerard Grandzol

When a good parent meets evil, tragedy happens.

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Sacrifice. That is the first thing that a good parent willingly accepts when their child enters this Earth. Selfishness becomes selflessness. Your life is no longer as important as the child’s future. Status quo for the people who cut the shit when they become parents.

Today is a sad day all around. 16 years ago, terrorists cut America to pieces with three planes, costing 3,000 innocent lives. Every 9/11 anniversary, a few fresh heartbreaking tales of heroism emerge like leaves trapped under a rock. Currently, Hurricane Irma is ripping through Florida, after Harvey did a number on Houston. Streets, houses, people, cars, and pets are under siege. You’ve heard about all of that, though, and while it’s all terribly sad, I want to talk to you about Gerard Grandzol.

When I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline today, I read a painful story that is currently buying up real estate in my soul at the moment, so I have to talk about it.

Grandol, 38 years old and a Philadelphia native, was a fine citizen. He did a lot of good work in his community and when people heard his name, smiles and nods were abound. Isn’t that the way to be when you get into your late 30’s and 40’s? People hear your name and sing your praises, instead of wincing and walking away. Grandzol did the right thing often. Last Thursday, he did the right thing and it cost him his life.

He was taking his two year daughter and his dog on an outing to the park. Fun was to be had and good times collected for memory. When Grandzol returned to his home later that night, two men approached him and demanded his car. Grandzol, thinking wisely and going into protective mode, agreed to give up his ride-but wanted to get his kid out of the vehicle first. Then, one guy shot the man twice in the head right in front of his daughter.

This isn’t a movie. In real life, heroes die all the time. Sure, the little girl is two years old, but make no mistake, she knew what had just happened. Grandzol was pronounced dead shortly after at the hospital. A good man who just ran into two degenerate fuckheads who wanted to rob someone. Life taking a shit on a good man.

Oh, Grandzol’s wife just had another kid recently, so that’s two kids and a wife he’s leaving behind, as well as friends and other family members. All because someone pulled a trigger on a good man.

This is exactly why I roll my eyes when someone mentions “Praise God” or “God has a plan”. Please, religious folks, explain to me like a five year old how killing a 38 year old father of two is involved in his plan. Please use the comments section below. While you stare into your bible or grasp the closest form of a crutch, I’ll keep going.

I don’t believe in God or plans because the world is full of despicable evil. If God had a plan, why didn’t the two dipshits die instead of the innocent father? Where is the almighty when you need him? In a nutshell, God’s voicemail box is full and he isn’t getting back to you. Churches are nice and all, but they are full of fucking LIES. Bullshit theories about the goodness in people that doesn’t exist.

That two year old daughter is going to be damaged for life. Forget therapy. Enter complete mind ninja. She watched her dad get gunned down for no reason. He died because two idiots without a job wanted a car.

I close my eyes and think about how this dad just took his kid to the park and threw the frisbee around with his pup. Life was great. The weather was nice, even if the world is not. He packed the family into the car and drove home with a smile on his face and worried about good old fashioned adulting shit. Am I cooking dinner or is the lady doing it? How are the Halloween plans coming along? Maybe we should host Thanksgiving one of these years? What lies ahead in 2018? Normal things.

I took my soon to be six year old son, Vinny, to Francis Park today after school. I watched him run, jump, and make quick friends. I had this painful story in the back of my head every second. I thought about it as we walked back to our car, which was parked on Donovan. I thought about it as we went for soft pretzels, starbursts, and a double iced espresso (for me!) at Target. What if this happens to me?

Scar me for saying it, but it doesn’t leave my head. Wrong place/wrong time deaths happen every day and there is no preventive measure. Arm yourself, but what if your gun is in the car and you aren’t fast enough? Learn martial arts is good if you are an action film star, but you’re not stopping a bullet if you merge Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee together. Nothing scares me more than being unable to protect my kid.

Thankfully, the two fucksticks ran off and didn’t harm the kid. Homicide Captain John Ryan said that Grandzol wouldn’t give up the car and they shot him for it. No, the man wasn’t being protective of his car. He wanted to get his kid out of it-and paid the ultimate price. He sacrificed himself; the ultimate move for a parent.

Later that night, the two guys were found and arrested. I hope they get the death penalty, but please, make it slow. Let every single one of Grandzol’s family members and friends swing a corkball bat at their head. Is that too bloody and painful? What would you do? Life in prison…? Not enough. Quick death penalty–not enough. They deserve worse.

Here’s the takeaway before you get back to checking your fantasy football teams and finishing up your Monday activities: if we showed a TAD more humility for one another, the world would be a better place. If we came together on normal days like we do during natural disasters and acts of terrorism, the world would be better. Simple as that. It shouldn’t take a Harvey, Erma, or two towers falling to the ground to make us understand how much we need and depend on each other.

Unfortunately, this won’t happen, and the evil will continue. People are naturally good, but often turn bad. Once that happens, rehabilitation is unlikely. I hate this sad but true fact.

Tragedy is a test. A test of how we react to it and change for the better. The reality is many will read this story, sigh, and move on. All I can do is write about it and try to make myself feel better. Share it so others know the tale. Lather, rinse, and repeat until I can move on.

Before you go to bed tonight, have a moment of peace for Gerald Grandzol. His killing had nothing to do with black and white, just right and wrong.

I’ll be busy thinking about his wife and kids. They’re shattered for life and for what? Nothing. Just for a robbery.

I tell my son that there is more good than evil on this Earth. I sure hope I am right.

“When god builds a church, the devil lives next door.”-Jacob Riis, famous social documentary photographer and muck-raking journalist. 

Thoughts to Grandzol’s family. There is a Go Fund Me page to support Grandzol’s widow and two kids. 177,000 dollars of a 200,000 dollar goal has been raised so far. You can help here.

Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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