Remarks by SNAP Leader
Mary Grant, spoken
at memorial service for Eric Zapala
Mrs Zapala, David,
James, Paul, other relatives and friends:
Despite this terribly
sad time, I am glad to be here with you today to honor Eric, his life
and remember his many accomplishments, talents and gifts he shared with
so many people in his life---, including the many people who have been
touch by Erics compassion, courage, and strength, including those
who never even met Eric personally.
My name is Mary Grant.
I am a SNAP leader from Southern California. Since I received news of
Erics death I have been amazed at my reaction. It hurts so much.
I want to express to all you my heartfelt sympathy. I am so sorry for
I first met Eric back
in the 1990s through a newspaper article that exposed a terrible
hurt that both Eric and I experienced at the hands of trusted authority
figures in Orange County.
Our families thought
it was great when these men took an interest in us. Our families had no
idea these men would hurt us. Our families could not have known. No one
could have known. These men were incredibly shrewd, secretive and cunning.
These men also knew how to keep us quiet. Neither Eric nor I were able
to report what happened to us while we were kids. We involuntarily repressed
the memory of what happened to us as children.
Years later, Eric
and I were finally able to remember, understand, and slowly begin share
the pain, betrayal and loss of innocence we experienced. When we finally
did speak, we found validation. We learned that the crimes were not our
fault. And we found the strength to expose these horrific crimes, protect
other children still at risk and reach out to others who were still trapped
in shame and silence.
Eric was there for
me personally during a very scary and difficult time in my life when I
felt so alone, abandoned and isolated. I remember the many talks we had
on the phone and when we went to a comedy club to laugh together which
was good medicine for both of us. He even allowed me to come to his home
and meet his mother who also reached out to me. She too was a great comfort
Back in the early
and mid 90s there were few victims speaking out. But Eric took the
risk and did it. Eric was incredibly courageous and articulate. He was
sure of himself and with dignity and clarity, he spoke his truth. He told
how he was assaulted when he was only 11 and 12 yrs old. The LA Times
even wrote about Eric.
More than anything
he wanted to heal himself and protect others. Because he cared so much
about others, Eric took the unusual and courageous step of exposing his
perpetrator by filing a civil lawsuit. Over and over again, Eric told
me he didnt want any other kid to be abused as he was. Warning others
about his perpetrator, he felt, was the best way to warn families about
a dangerous man. He was, of course, absolutely right. Thousands of us
have followed in his pioneering footsteps. And countless others have been
protected as a result.
The obituary written
by Erics family said it perfectly. He carried a burden none
should have had to carry. That is so, so true. Eric carried the
burden of having been sexually abused. But he carried this horrific burden
with dignity, grace, courage and compassion. And despite this burden,
he helped so many others by sharing his story.
Eric didn't just help
other victims. I remember when Eric spoke at a college class of students
studying to be probation officers, DAs, police officers and social
workers. Eric helped teach these students how to help keep other kids
safe and how to treat victims sensitively when they disclose abuse. Those
students are now in the workforce. They deal with hundreds of wounded
people every single day. And I'm convinced they're doing so with more
compassion and effectiveness because of Eric. I feel incredibly proud
and privileged to have known him.
To his family and
loved ones, I know you too feel deeply proud of him. Deep in my heart,
though I know he didn't spend much time tooting his own horn, I believe
Eric too felt proud of his bravery. He certainly should have.
I hope everyone here
recognizes a crucial fact - there is nothing anyone here could have done
that would have saved Eric. I'm sure that Eric would agree with me. He
would not want anyone here to have any regrets over things that were said
or not said, done or not done.
Maybe it seems corny
but I have felt close to Eric during this past week. Im not sure
if it is my memories of him, my strong wish that he were still alive or
whether it could in fact be his spirit with me, but one overriding thought
is that Eric would not want his death to be in vain.
Eric spread so much
love, compassion, good-will, music, laughter and friendship to the world.
Everyone here was touched by Eric. He would want all of us; all those
who loved him, to have good lives.
As a SNAP leader and
survivor of sexual abuse, I want all of you to know that I commit myself
to Erics memory and to you, to do all I can to prevent even one
more child from being hurt. I ask on behalf of Erics actions to
join with me in helping to create a safer world for children, a world
where no other child gets abused, a world where years later, the innocent
children all grown up are no longer haunted by unbearable pain.
In this dark hour,
we have two choices - to become bitter, which is understandable, or to
become even more committed to ensuring to helping the wounded and protecting
the vulnerable. In our hearts, each of us knows what choice Eric would
have us make.