Saturday marks the 25th anniversary of the murder of Police Officer Danny Faulkner by Mumia Abu-Jamal. At long last, Faulkner's widow, Maureen, is preparing to tell her story in print. Here for the first time are the opening words of her forthcoming personal account, which I'm writing. All the proceeds will go to a not-for-profit established in the officer's name. Look for the book next year.
Maureen Faulkner was anxious for her mother, Annamae Foley, to come for a visit.
In the little more than a year since Maureen's marriage, she hadn't seen as much of Annamae as she would have liked. So, when her husband made plans to take a weeklong hunting trip to Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, Maureen extended the invitation. She was thrilled when Annamae said she'd join her for a Saturday overnighter.
Maureen looked forward to having her mother visit. It would give them the chance to shop, to chat, and to provide her mother with a glimpse of her happy home. Maureen was very much in love with her policeman husband and fully appreciated the promising life they had began to build together. She looked forward to starting their family.
Her mother was a consummate worrier and Maureen wanted Annamae to know that she was getting along fine in the world. She'd get that chance the first weekend in December of 1981.
Stamps were 20 cents. Luke had finally married Laura on General Hospital. Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" was atop the charts. Dan Fouts was throwing touchdowns in San Diego. President Reagan, nearing the end of his first year in office, was enabling an expansion by the CIA into domestic counter-intelligence. And, at 6236 Harley St. in Philadelphia, 25-year-old Maureen Faulkner excitedly prepared to entertain her mom.
Annamae adored her youngest child and only daughter - cute, precocious Maureen - always a feisty companion to her busy mom. At first, she had been wary of Maureen's choice of a spouse, sensing the potential impermanence of his dangerous occupation, but she soon succumbed to the tall, personable, earnest young fellow with the shy smile her daughter had fallen in love with. Both parents loved Danny like another son.
That Saturday, Annamae eagerly made the 45-minute trip on the Schuylkill Expressway from the home she shared with Maureen's father in suburban Valley Forge to her daughter's rowhouse in Southwest Philadelphia. There, she unpacked in one of the two small bedrooms on the second floor. "Cozy" is how Maureen likes to recall that home. "There was nothing extravagant about it, yet it was the kind of place where both families and all our friends always felt welcome."
The weekend went according to plan. They went Christmas shopping on Saturday and delighted in sewing curtains for the new house, and in candid conversations about their many interests. Mother and daughter had always gotten along well, and it was wonderful for both to enjoy once again the kinship that mothers and daughters don't often get to indulge in once a new husband and job enter the picture.
The chipper spirit of the weekend was soon transformed, however, when Annamae woke up on Sunday morning. There was a marked change in her demeanor that she was reluctant to talk about. Over coffee in the small kitchen, Maureen sensed Annamae's preoccupation, but, despite her prodding, she couldn't get her mother to share what was troubling her.
By midday, Annamae was ready to talk. Maureen recalls: "She said she couldn't sleep last night. I asked her, 'What's the matter, Mom?' Finally, she told me that she had had a nightmare that frightened her - she saw one of the boys on the pavement, bleeding. 'One of my boys' is how she put it, meaning one of my four brothers, Jim, Mike, Lawrence or Francis.
"It continued to bother her a lot, and she was visibly uncomfortable all day. When a neighbor's dog started howling that afternoon, she was frightened enough to say, 'Maureen, I don't like this feeling I'm having - I'm sure something terrible is going to happen to one of the boys.'
"Before leaving, she called each of my brothers and told them to be very careful because of what she had dreamt, that one of them was lying on a sidewalk, bleeding."
Annamae's reading of her premonition was wrong. It wasn't one of her own sons she saw. It was her son-in-law, Danny. One week after Annamae's dream at Danny's home, he would die in the line of duty - his lifeless young body seeping innocent blood onto a frozen Philadelphia street.