Christine M. Flowers | MOMMIE DEAREST
EBONY Dorsey was spectacular in all respects: beautiful, an honor student, kind and resilient. Despite the fact that she grew up in a single-parent home headed by a drug-abusing mom who was carrying on an affair with her dealer, Ebony flourished like one of those flowers that push their way up through the cracks in a city sidewalk. This was a valuable life.
EBONY Dorsey was spectacular in all respects: beautiful, an honor student, kind and resilient.
Despite the fact that she grew up in a single-parent home headed by a drug-abusing mom who was carrying on an affair with her dealer, Ebony flourished like one of those flowers that push their way up through the cracks in a city sidewalk. This was a valuable life.
And now, tragically, she's gone.
But Ebony isn't one of the statistics from gun violence. She isn't the victim of a random attack, of an anonymous assailant, of a drug overdose. This exquisite teenager was murdered by her mom's boyfriend, a man who was invited into the home by her wreck of a mother, the one person who, above all others, should have cherished and protected her.
In the coming days and weeks, we're going to be hearing a lot about Mark O'Donnell, the man who has admitted killing Ebony during a crack-fueled rage.
We're going to learn that his father fatally stabbed his wife. Of any prior brushes with the law. Of his real family, the one he created while married to a woman who wasn't Ebony's mother.
But it's unlikely (despite yesterday's interview in the Daily News) that we're going to hear as much as we need to about Danielle Cattie, the woman who gave birth to the victim and who didn't even notify police of her absence until late in the evening the day after her disappearance.
And the reason we're probably not going to hear enough is either people will sympathize with the fact that she's a grieving mother, or we're so used to children being brought up by incompetent and borderline criminal parents that it's no longer news. I hope that changes with this case.
As far as Danielle Cattie's grief, maybe she is in mourning. Who am I to say what goes on in the mind and heart of a parent who has lost a child?
That type of pain is unbearable, and in many cases, insurmountable. I also got some idea of parental grief listening to the words of Richard Kanka, who spoke to New Jersey legislators this week in opposition to their abominable move to abolish the death penalty.
This man, whose daughter Megan was raped and murdered by Jesse Temendequas, loved her so much that more than a decade after her death, he's still trying to make sure that her killer is executed.
But Danielle Cattie actually spent intimate moments and got high with the man who ended up murdering her child.
Sure, the analogy may be unfair. Cattie may have been so overwhelmed by her addiction that she lost all maternal instinct and common sense. Her brother has said she made some "bad decisions." (Picture the tombstone: "Ebony Dorsey: Victim of a 'bad decision.' ")
But that's a poor excuse. Children are supposed to be safe, are supposed to be loved, are supposed to have hope. We often can't protect them from the random violence of flying bullets or the sick actions of a child molestor, but we can at least expect that their mothers and fathers won't be bringing the evil of the world into their own homes.
This tragic case is a prime example of why we err in blaming some mechanical intermediary like guns for so many of society's ills. This bright and promising 14-year-old was the victim of neglect and immoral behavior, not a straw purchase. She was a sacrificial lamb to the twisted desires of two adults, both of whom placed getting high above their own sense of humanity.
And while one of those adults is, if there is any justice in the world, going to death row for his crimes, the other will probably be immune from prosecution. At most, if an indictment is issued, she'll plead to a much lesser charge and be released to her own private demons.
Maybe now we'll pay closer attention to what Bill Cosby says when he laments the disintegration of the family. Maybe we'll start being critical of women who have babies without husbands, who sleep with men who have other lovers, who put drugs into the same bodies they make children with.
Maybe we won't be afraid to put the blame where it belongs, on parents who don't give a damn that their babies are growing up in a hell of their own creation. Maybe we'll praise coherent families with the same passion that we vilify guns and poverty and racism.
Ebony Dorsey didn't have to leave this earth before her 15th birthday, which she would have celebrated later this month.
Heaven didn't need this extra angel. *
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer.