This story is about terrible loss and surviving a horrific ordeal. Think about what your worst nightmare is or could be and then read this story.
Often people ask me what is the longest ride I have given. My longest ride to date has been from Los Angeles to Palo Alto. For those not familiar with California, it is a five to six hour drive from start to finish. Basically, I drove to just before San Francisco and back. The story that unfolded on the drive was one of horror, immense loss and survival.
I had just dropped off my daughter at work and immediately turned on my Uber app. Within seconds I got a ride request. As I made my way to the UCLA Medical Center I get a call from the ride requester. She explained that the person I am picking up is going to Palo Alto and that it was a six hour drive. I am always up for a challenge so I told her no problem, I would just need to fill the tank and then we could be on our way.
As I am approaching the hospital, I start to get crazy thoughts. Are they releasing someone who was in a gang related event? What could possibly be in Palo Alto? After I pulled up, a nurse came out to make sure I was Alturo’s ride. After confirming, she state that she will be right back with him. Half expecting someone in a wheelchair, she emerged with a young man who asked if he could sit in the front seat. He settled in next to me while the nurse put his belongings consisting of two hospital patient belongings bags and a backpack, reminded him of his follow up and wished him good luck.
After a quick stop for gas and cigs (he really wanted to smoke after what he had been through), we hit the highway. It was then that he started to tell me that his whole family was dead and that he was the sole survivor.
Arturo and his two sisters were the products of a Mexican father and Philippine mother. Late November 2016, he and his family travelled to the Philippines to visit his mother’s family. While on an outing one day, the family was attacked and robbed. They all were shot. He gave the details of watching his sister kneeling next to him as one of the gunmen shot her in the back of the head. He just kept saying how they were all gone.
He does not know how he survived but for six months he was stuck in the Philippines until he was finally transported back to the U.S. and began the long process of surgeries and recuperation. I can only assume his will to live was powered by the need to get back to his daughter who is only a toddler and to complete his studies to become a doctor to provide a better life for her. When talking about his little girl, his face would just beam.
As we ate to the miles of Interstate 5 he shared his love for his daughter and the anguish for the relatives who knew he had inherited both parents’ life insurance policies. While in the hospital fighting to get better, the few that did come to visit did so with thoughts of getting a loan. Once they realized that the money was not going to materialize, the visits became fewer and fewer. Eventually they stopped coming at all. By the time he was released, it had been over a week since the last visit.
In his past, he went straight from high school to boxing. He travelled the world as a boxer making plenty of money until one day his parents came to him and offered to pay for his college as they feared for his health as a boxer. They feared long-term injury if he continued boxing. He started taking classes and was just short one semester before heading into internship.
He showed me pictures of his little girl, the one person left that he fights for everyday. He promised to make sure that she and her mother, whom he is no longer dating, will be well taken care of. He shared his relationship with his ex and how she wanted to get back together after learning of his inheritance. He seemed to struggle with this idea. He told her that no matter what, as his child’s mother, she would have a roof, car and financial help to raise his daughter.
Why Palo Alto? Though he had been living his life in Southern California for several years, he was headed up north to the home he grew up in and where his parents still lived before that faithful trip that took so much from him. As we got closer he became apprehensive, scared to go in the house as it held so many memories. As he exited the car, I gave him a hug and told him things will work out. He thanked me for listening as he rambled on sometimes in pride of his beautiful family and his daughter and sometimes in despair knowing that he he now has to face life without his immediate family there to cheer him on as he completes his education and raises his daughter.
I think of him often, hoping that he is okay and that he is back on track to fulfilling his promise to his parents and daughter to make his way in the medical field.