Contributions may be sent to:
Alicia Titus Memorial
A Day of Remembrance
For those of us who have experienced the loss of someone dear to us every day is a “day of remembrance”. September 11th had been a day of celebration for my family prior to 2001; but since then it has been a day of reminiscing, a day of commemoration of another year gone by without Alicia, as well as, a day of celebration of the birth of my son, Zac. This past September 11th, we chose to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Alicia’s murder by developing a day of peace activities in Ohio where Alicia was born and raised. The Titus family has a long history with Urbana University and it is where Alicia attended for a semester before going back to Miami University and completing her degree.
The day’s events were divided into four programs designed to honor Alicia, raise money for the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund, and spread the message of peace, justice, forgiveness and hope; the essence of Alicia’s life and what she stood for. The morning Service was more of a tribute to Alicia and those who have died because of social, economic, religious and political violence. Our dear friend Betsy opened the morning with a message of deep conviction and her own personal connection with Alicia and our family. Bev and I both shared from our hearts the painful journey that grief has taken us on in the past five years. This was followed by a moving rendition by Rob Head of “Amazing Grace”, the song that Alicia had sung at her cousin’s funeral in 1991; the song that our son, Zac, sang at Alicia’s Memorial Service. There were 175 people, mostly students and faculty in attendance.
The afternoon was designed to include local educators for peace-building activities within our schools. Maria Mone from the Ohio Commission of Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management and Jim Boland, Professor and Director of the Peace Resource Center at Wilmington College presented programs that are available to schools on issues of peaceful conflict mediation and learning how to accept differences in people.
This was followed by a reception with Marianne Williamson, international speaker, best-selling author and peacemaker extraordinaire. After the reception Bev and I spoke about Alicia and our involvement in peace efforts around the world through our organization of September Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. At the same time we were organizing this program, Peaceful Tomorrows was hosting over 30 people from all over the world who had been victimized by violence and have been actively involved in organizations promoting issues of peace and justice. This two-week conference was filled with powerful examples of how love can overcome hate and forgiveness leads to reconciliation.
Our evening was capped off by an amazing message of hope, peace and understanding. Marianne offered a challenge to the nearly 200 attendees to take the initiative to change that which we do not support and to grow our own internal peace, our compassion for others and our understanding that transcends politics. Marianne Williamson is an incredible spiritual leader and a driving force for change in our world so plagued with poverty, disease, hate and violence. Through our previous contacts with Marianne and our involvement with the Department of Peace movement, we have come to know and love Marianne for the shining soul she is. She has really connected with Alicia’s spirit, our pain and healing and the needs of our country and our world. In her book, “The Gift of Change” she writes about our September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows organization. The thrust of the book is about change and about the choices we make that lead to personal transformation from our tragedies and loss.
Whenever Bev and I speak out on issues of peace and justice, we always feel Alicia’s spiritual presence and I can here her standing behind us saying “way to go Mom and Dad”. Our purpose in doing this is to change the world; to change the mentality that thinks that disease, poverty, injustice, inequality and war are acceptable; to create a world in which, as Alicia would always say, we all just “learn to get along”. Some may think this is an impossible dream; some get angry and threaten us for what we are trying to do; but most people dream of a day when we can live in peace and harmony for our children’s’ sake. Marianne has said that when a critical mass of people who truly believe in peace join together as one mind, we will reach the “tipping point”; we will change the world! After all, look at what a few fully committed terrorists have done to our world! Which do you support? Which one are you willing to commit to? If we are not doing something to make this world better, in the end, we are contributing to its demise. For me, I choose peace, I choose love, I choose truth and I choose hope. God bless the whole world for we are all in this together whether we like it or not.
John Titus (Alicia’s Dad)
|On Monday, October 3rd, 2005, we are offering the 2nd annual, Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund event at Urbana University featuring Derrick Jensen, noted author of books such as The Culture of Make Believe, A Language Older Than Words, Listening to the Land, Walking on Water and others.A quote from him reads, "If we wish to stop the atrocities, we need merely to step away from the isolation. There is a whole world waiting for us, ready to welcome us home".|
Here is the memorial bench dedicated to Alicia and located at Graham High School, where she graduated with the class of 1991. Contributions for the bench were made by Alicia's classmates and friends.
order to raise awareness of The Alicia Titus Memorial
Running On Empty, But Not Alone
days ago I lined up with 37,000 people at the base of the Verrazano-Narrows
Bridge in Staten Island for the start of the New York City Marathon. This
wasn't my first marathon but, it would soon prove to be my most difficult.
Five weeks prior to the marathon I started getting a dry cough which ended
up in Bronchitis and early signs of pneumonia. Training came to a screeching
halt as the money from people all over came in for the Alicia Titus Memorial
Peace Fund at Urbana University. Generous supporters from all over contributed
to this fundraiser as my chances for successful completion of the 26.2
I felt obligated. I really wanted to finish what I started, complete the
unwritten contract, and run this marathon in the city where the horror
of my dear Alicia's death and the winds of change had scattered her ashes
and distributed them along the way from Staten Island to Manhattan, the
course of the marathon. Two weeks before the marathon, I slept sixteen
hours each day for the first part of the week. Bedridden! Running was
out of the question. A week before, I ran eight miles and felt remotely
like I might be able to do this. For the next several days, I rested and
asked for healing and divine intervention.
Titus (Alicia's Dad)
can be sent to:
I would like to thank Patricia and everyone who made it possible for me to be with you tonight. And, a special thanks to my nephew, Kyle, for the wonderful introduction. I was so excited when I heard you were going to do this. I’ve been somewhat preoccupied in the last few years as we’ve been dealing with our loss and trying to make a difference in our world, and here you are in college. It’s really great to be here with you.
Since September 11th, 2001, I have been given numerous opportunities to meet and speak with really incredible people, just like you, all over the United States, Canada and Italy. My wife, Bev (she sends her apologies for not being able to attend tonight) and I have done documentaries for Public Television, given talks in San Francisco, New York City, Palo Alto for the American Muslim Voice National Convention, Berkeley, Detroit, Livonia, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Kitchner, Ontario, University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Urbana University, Forli, Riccione and Rimini, Italy and at the Department of Peace Conference in Washington DC on September 11, 2005. I’ve also addressed a Congressional Briefing when we introduced the Department of Peace Bill to Congress, interviewed with hundreds of television, newspaper, magazine and other media. I’ve written many articles, op-eds and position papers, lobbied Congress and joined with millions of caring, peace-loving souls for marches, rallies and demonstrations. And, all of this from a small town man who doesn’t like confrontation is not a good public speaker and gets easily discouraged by politics. All I ever wanted in life was to live in peace, love my family and do what I can to help our world.
The murder of my daughter and consequent grief I have experienced since then are perhaps the greatest challenge I will ever experience in life. When our children come to us at that magical moment of birth; when we experience their first breath, their first cry and hold them in our arms for the first time; something miraculous happens inside of us that connects us more deeply with all of life, with newfound hope, with a deeper love, with greater understanding, with unbounded joy, ultimately, with God. Through the birth of our children we experience a rebirthing within ourselves as new life surges through our veins. Thus it was with the birth of Alicia on that beautiful June morning in 1973. I felt a resurgence of life and knew that my life would never be the same. God had blessed me and all of life with a miracle; a miracle that would surely change the world and tip the scales toward goodness and truth, toward love and understanding, toward hopefulness and abundant joy. Our 6 lb 11 ounce baby girl was going to bring peace, love and understanding in a world the seemed be struggling to find these as we were in the midst of war, disease, poverty and injustice. Thus, I held high hopes and renewed strength with the birth of my children to change the world and Alicia paved the way.
Amazingly, we watched Alicia unfold like a beautiful blossoming tree as her roots took hold and her flowering blossoms unfolded in beauty and majesty. Her gentle sweet nature graced all who knew her, while her zest for life and exuberant joyousness were exhilarating and contagious. For Alicia, life was to be experienced in its fullness! She approached each day with a sense of purpose, spreading her message of peace and love, and open to the joy that this new day would bring. One of my favorite passages from the Psalms 118 “…this is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” was manifested through Alicia in her approach to life. I remember reciting this to myself on that beautiful Tuesday morning in September of 2001, as I drove eastward, down our tree-lined road to work. How quickly our perceptions can change! How profoundly our world can be transformed! How painfully evil can rear its ugly head and wreak havoc in our world!
As I go forth each day in our world holding dear to me Alicia’s message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, I am often struck by the blatant resistance and underlying animosity by some whom I encounter along the way. It is hard for me to fathom how some people so desperately cling to their dualistic thinking of polar opposites refusing to see beyond their dichotomous view of love or hate, peace or war, us versus them…with such vehemence, refusing to entertain any new concepts that could possibly help us to rise above the pervasive societal mentality that justifies the killing of one another and the engenders the poison of hate. I’ve had people tell me that my “Kumbaya” attitude is what caused my daughter’s murder and that my unwillingness to support a military response against the terrorists who killed Alicia is the problem. Some have said that my attitude of peace is what led to her death in the first place and that she deserved to die! I have received hate mail after speaking out for peace and justice; I’ve been called degrading names; and I’ve been confronted by people who self-righteously attempt to correct my “faulty thinking”. And in my mind it all seems so vividly clear…all of life is interconnected in ways we cannot fathom! We are all God’s children and we are each profoundly affected by the inflictions we cause to one another. For me, it comes down to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done you.” The true understanding of our interconnectedness and our “oneness” has incredible potential to create greater love guided by God’s truth; “heaven on earth”, if you will. Conversely, if the ego mind has its way and we disconnect from God’s truth we will find ourselves in an endless cycle leading us toward self indulgence, self-gratification, selfishness and self-destruction.
I believe in the message of my friend, Azim Khamisa, whom I met at the Department of Peace Conference where we both spoke. He lost his 19 year-old son, Tariq, to gang violence in the mid 90’s. He profoundly claims that there were victims on both sides of the gun-his son was a victim of the boy who shot him; the 14-year old “gang banger” who pulled the trigger was a victim of society. While this doesn’t excuse or justify the action itself, it helps us see a greater truth…we live in relation with all people, even those whom we may not understand and have very little or no contact with. Their lives and their actions affect us either directly or indirectly at some profound level. Our denial of this truth will not protect us in the end. It is all too easy to exclude “them” as different from us; it’s easy to write “them” off as less than human; it’s easy to hate those who would do harm to us or our families…but the message of Jesus is very clear; “love thine enemies as thyself.”
On September 17th, 2001, we held a Memorial Service for Alicia at a church in Urbana, Ohio. One of several Services we would attend for her. Planning such a service for our firstborn child was deeply painful and extremely difficult, as you might imagine, but with the help of loving friends and family, we managed to pull it off. I could feel God’s Providence at work throughout the Service. Here was an opportunity to honor the life of Alicia and the abundance of joy, laughter, love and truth that she brought into our lives. The Service was a fitting tribute to the wonderful soul of Alicia who graced our lives for 28 blessed years; an interpretive dancer in a white flowing dress presented her version of a deeply spiritual song a friend of ours had written; Alicia’s piano teacher from her elementary school days played, “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with Me”, our son, Zachery, sang “Amazing Grace” a cappella, family and friends gave fitting tributes, four of our minister friends contributed beautiful and moving eulogies…and there were many tears and hugs. In my tribute to Alicia, I ended by quoting from the Bible from Jesus while he was dying on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I would learn to forgive the murderers who so viciously killed my daughter but, I knew that I must if I were to survive this life-shattering ordeal. I could not and would not allow the hate and animosity that killed my daughter, kill me also. And so, I prayed often and consciously sought a better way; a way that did not include vengeance but sought understanding; a way that would not allow for hate but would open me up to greater love; a way that would allow me to grow my love and compassion and use this to help make our world better. Hope runs eternal! I believe that this is what God wills for us even though we are free to choose a course that is counter to this.
During my time of reflection, meditation and prayer I began to realize that there are many ways of viewing this world that lead to our diverse realities. We create rationalizations and illusions to support our narrow-minded existences. The ego mind develops supportive networking that reinforces the self-serving nature of its perceptions. Fear, if allowed to flourish, limits our scope and understanding of truth and causes us to behave in ways counter to our true nature. Marianne Williamson, international speaker, spiritual leader and leading author whom we consider a mentor and a friend, often quotes from the “Course in Miracles” and says that the only thing real from our past is the love we shared with one another; everything else is wrapped in illusion. I began to apply this to my own life and it made perfect sense.
God is love. God’s love is what brought us into existence and what sustains us in this life on earth. The ego mind often distorts this love creating a complex illusion of reality build upon our fears, misconceptions, partial truths, needs, wants, desires, misperceptions…but the only true reality which comes from God is the love we share with one another and the good deeds we do to make this world better. Everything else is outside of God’s will for us and is illusory. It reminds me of something I had read in my first year of college, Plato’s Cave Allegory in which people had been chained facing the back wall of the cave for their entire lives. Reality was based on shadows dancing on the wall in front of them, coming from the opening at their backs and the distorted voices echoing off of the cave walls. One day, one of the men broke free of the chains that bound him and ventured out of the cave. He was struck by the majesty of it all: the brilliance of the sunshine, the incredible beauty of nature and the awesomeness of creation. He excitedly ran back into the cave to share his new perceptions of this glorious world that was just beyond their cave walls. The fellow cave-dwellers thought he had gone crazy with his excited ramblings…and killed him out of fear! What if, they had been open to his enlightened message? What if, he had been able to free them of their bindings and lead them to a new understanding? The possibilities are endless when we open up to a greater reality, to the “great mystery’ that lies beyond our self imposed limitations.
Alicia was an amazing young lady from the beginning of her life, which began on June 11th, 1973. She was the miracle that brought my soul-mate, Bev and me together; she was the miracle that changed our lives and gave us greater meaning and purpose. From the beginning Alicia was a peacemaker filled with compassion and an insatiable search for truth. She lived her life with audacity, courage, hope and joyousness beyond measure. When we went to San Francisco to pack up her belongings in late September of 2001, beside her bed-stand in her apartment we found the Simple Prayer by St. Francis of Assissi:
Lord Make me an Instrument of Your Peace.
O Divine Master,
This prayer from St. Francis speaks to me with great clarity and gives me hope. There have been many times in the last 5 ½ years when clarity was obscured and hope but a fleeting glimpse of something that once was but will never be.
In my Journal that I kept for the first year after Alicia’s death, I write about my depression, despair and desolation. And I write about faith, hope and God’s presence. I can only imagine the hell that life would be without faith, without hope, without God. For even in the worst of times when I questioned whether life was worth living, when the pain filled every cell in my body and resonated deep within my soul; when I could feel myself slipping into the deep dark abyss, spiraling downward and questioning my ability to stop the depression, I always felt the presence of God and I saw God’s light; although, at times in the faraway distance like a flickering candle in the wind. My faith carried me through these worst of times; and my capacity for understanding and compassion grew in leaps and bounds as a deeper love blossomed out of the depths of my sadness.
Life is a mystery and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Pain and suffering have the power to destroy us, or the redemptive power to regenerate us. Even in our grief, we make choices that allow these seeds of hope to grow and flourish or the seeds of despair to ruin our lives. Through our choices and our actions, guided by God’s truth and love, we fulfill our mission and purpose in this world or we choose a path of self destruction. It is all too easy to become overwhelmed and depressed by the deplorable conditions in our world. But complacency is our own worst enemy. If we are not a part of the solution; then we are a part of the problem. No longer can we ride the fence. We cannot let the evil of a few hate-filled zealots direct the course of our existence. We must become instruments of God’s peace or we become victims of the forces of hate and violence.
The greatest challenge that God puts before us is to learn from our experiences, to grow our understanding of truth and to manifest our love through our uses here on earth. “Love one another as I have loved you” are words of great wisdom, for it is in the loving that we shall overcome hatred and it is in the giving that we truly receive.
I am just one person. I cannot change our world by myself. But I can do my share. And, if each of us who believe in truth and justice, love and compassion, goodness and hope committed our lives to these ends (within God’s Will) we could indeed change this world into a place of beauty and light where our grandchildren won’t have to worry about being murdered by hate-filled religious zealots, curable diseases, poverty or the destructive forces of war. Evil will always rear its ugly head but, no longer do we need to cower in fear and succumb to its destructive force. We can choose a different course. We can find peace in the midst of tragedy!
In closing I would like to share a Journal entry from Alicia written on January 4th, 1999. She wrote this during a time of struggle in her life when she was hurting from a relationship gone awry. She had a wonderful way with words and wanted to complete her post graduate work to teach writing to college students. She writes on “Happiness”.
“Happiness is such an illusive emotion. One day you’re soaring on its wings, the next you’re looking about, hoping to catch a glimpse of its sunny magnificence, trying to convince yourself it was real and not just a memory of a fairy tale from childhood.
Those who have known the greatest happiness have opened themselves to the most gut-wrenching sorrow. It’s a gamble; you have to play to win. Or maybe those who have endured suffering have a greater respect for joy and can appreciate it wherever they find it; the smell of a rose, the sight of a baby, an old couple holding hands.
And those who’ve lived their lives in a heart-numbing cocoon of sanity, safety, and contentment don’t have the capacity for pure joy.
God be with you.