Gerry Duggan, Whit's closest friend, protector and confidante at Terre Haute, has also become a close friend of mine. If you've read the blog, you know him as "Tiny," but even those references don't begin to describe how close Whit and he were.
Gerry has been out of prison for 2 years now, and is about to finish his Associate's degree in drug and alcohol counseling. We see each other often, as Gerry lives just up the road near Dayton. Today I would like to share a piece Gerry wrote, sent to me with the following explanation:
Today is the two year anniversary of my release from prison. I brought this up in one of my classes today and it became the focus of the class. When I got home I felt the need to put some of my thoughts on paper. Today has been a very emotional day for me and I don't know how much of what I wrote makes sense but I am sure you will get it.
As I read the piece, I of course couldn't help think that it reflected the personal experience Whit would have enjoyed after coming home. Would that he could have.
Here is Gerry's essay:
Today is the two year anniversary of the day I was released from prison. I have to say that I have overcome a lot of barriers since my release, but what I have realized is there is one barrier that is still standing between me and completely overcoming my past. That barrier is me; I still view myself as a convict. I tend to assume that is how other people view me, but I found out today during a group dynamics class I am taking that for most people they just view me as Gerry. One of my classmates who until today was not aware of my past said she thought I was one of the most honest caring people she knew. Her comment brought tears to my eyes; it gave me a glimpse of how people see me. What I am finding out is that I am still defining myself by who I was and not who I am. I have spent a lot of the last two years trying to prove that what I did to get locked up does not define me as a person, when in reality the only one I have to worry about defining who I am is me. I guess I am struggling with actually accepting the fact that it is time to allow myself to live and to stop living my life based on my past. I don’t know if I would have made it this far without all the support of my family and friends; every day I see reminders of how hard it is to survive the reentry process without having a support system. Since my release I have been doing a lot of writing, and over the last week I have been looking over some of the essays I have written since my release, and it has been a very emotional time for me. I guess rereading some of my experiences after my release brought back all the fear I felt at that time, but it also showed me just how far I have come. I am hoping to never forget what I went through to get to this point, because I believe it is something I can always use as a source of strength.