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A mother's nightmare turned all too real

Maureen Faulkner is the widow of Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer who died in the line of duty in 1981.

Maureen Faulkner writes that her mother dreamed of a bloody fate for a son. A week later, Officer Daniel Faulkner was killed.
Maureen Faulkner writes that her mother dreamed of a bloody fate for a son. A week later, Officer Daniel Faulkner was killed.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Philadelphia Daily News

Maureen Faulkner

is the widow of Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer who died in the line of duty in 1981.

Michael Smerconish

is a radio talk-show host and columnist for The Inquirer's Sunday Currents section.

The following are excerpts from a forthcoming book by Maureen Faulkner and Michael Smerconish titled "Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Pain, Loss and Injustice." In it, Maureen Faulkner retells the death of her husband, Daniel; the trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal, accused and later convicted of his murder; and the long succession of trials and hearings in the years since. She also recounts her horrified reaction to the rise of the international "Free Mumia" movement.

Chapter 1: The Premonition

We were both excited about the weekend, even though it would be the first in roughly a year of marriage that we would not be together. Danny was happy about his long-planned annual hunting trip; I was anxious to entertain my mother in our home. Every year, Danny would travel about two hundred miles north of Philadelphia via the Pennsylvania Turnpike to reach Sullivan County. He loved to hunt and to spend time with friends, mostly fellow cops like Hugh Gallagher. Hugh's father had a small cabin where he loved to go for a few days at a time. They'd track the deer, probably have a beer or two, and, knowing Danny, I'm sure they'd spend lots of time swapping stories while trekking in the cold mountain air. Danny loved to tell stories. Stories about his work as a cop. Stories about growing up in Philadelphia. Stories about his family. And stories about life in general. I knew I'd miss his company for two nights, but I was also looking forward to my mother's company. My mother was going to make the forty-five-minute drive from where my parents were living in the historic Valley Forge area into the city and, although she had visited our home before, this time she was going to spend the night. I was hoping it would be time spent together doing the things that moms and daughters don't often get to do when a husband enters the picture.

I was content with my life at that time and wanted very much for my mother to see and experience my surroundings. She was a consummate worrier and I was anxious for her to see that, at age twenty-five and married, I was getting along just fine in the world. I was very proud of the modest, comfortable little house Danny and I called home and I spent time before her arrival making sure everything looked just right. My mother was disappointed that Danny was leaving on his trip before she would arrive. They had a terrific relationship. At first, Mom had been wary of him as my choice of a spouse, not because of who Danny was but, rather, what he did for a living. Police work was dangerous, she often warned, as if telling me something new. But her concerns about his profession soon succumbed to her fondness for the tall, personable, handsome young man with the shy smile I had fallen in love with. Both my parents loved Danny like another son.

It was the early 1980s. Stamps were 20 cents; Luke had finally married Laura on

General Hospital

; Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" was atop the charts. President Reagan was nearing the end of his first year in office. CDs, pagers, fax machines, laptop computers, and cell phones did not exist yet. MTV was in its infancy and rap music almost unheard-of. Danny spent his Sunday afternoons watching another Dan - Dan Fouts - throw touchdowns for the team in San Diego. And I, contentedly nestled in my small house in southwest Philadelphia, was confident that bloody shoot-'em-ups and tragedy were merely the stuff of TV dramas like

Magnum, P.I.

as I vacuumed the living room and excitedly prepared to entertain my mom that December day.

My mom said goodbye to my father out in the suburbs and drove down the treacherous Schuylkill Expressway to our home. We had a terrific time together doing things that would seem inconsequential to an outsider. I remember we sewed curtains for my windows. The small house was cozy, nothing extravagant about it, but it was the kind of place where both Danny's and my families and all our friends always felt welcome.

Saturday and Saturday night were all that I had hoped they would be. The conversations with my mother were nothing short of hilarious; we joked and reminisced, had fun, and stayed up late. But things changed on Sunday morning. When Mom woke up, there was a marked change in her demeanor that she refused to discuss. As we had coffee in the kitchen, I could sense her uneasiness. But despite my prodding, she just wouldn't share what was troubling her.

By Sunday afternoon, she was ready to spill. She told me she had not slept well the night before. When I asked why, she finally said that she'd had a horrible nightmare that frightened and depressed her. Her peaceful slumber was disturbed by a vision of one of her boys on the pavement, bleeding. "One of my boys" is how she put it, meaning to me, and to her, one of my four brothers: Jim, Mike, Lawrence, or Francis.

The nightmare continued to gnaw at my mother's sense of ease as the cheerful tenor of the weekend was transformed by her looming anxiety. She was uncomfortable until the time she left for home. I remember that when a neighbor's dog started howling late that afternoon, she was frightened enough to say, "Maureen, I don't like this feeling of doom - I'm sure something terrible is going to happen to one of the boys." My mom was so concerned about my brothers that she called each one of them from my house and told them to be very careful because of what she had dreamt.

Mom's premonition was half-right. My brothers remained healthy and fine, but her dread and anxiety were founded. One week after her nightmare, I experienced my own when my husband, Danny, was found dead, murdered in the line of duty. Mom's divination of doom was transformed into a sad still frame of reality when, on the night of December 9, 1981, the innocent blood of the man I loved soaked the cold pavement of a frozen Philadelphia street.