I was 13 years old when my parents left the house.
We were living in a small apartment in downtown Cleveland, where the only lights were on the outside.
As we watched the news about the deadly tornado in Oklahoma City, I was in awe.
I didn’t know anything about the weather, and my parents didn’t.
The tornado had hit the city with the force of a magnitude-5 hurricane, and there was no way to know how powerful it was.
In a moment of shock, my mom and dad turned to me and said, “We’re going to be OK.”
They didn’t say it aloud, but I was convinced that if we could save our family, I could do it.
I told my mom that I loved her, and that we could be a family again someday.
For nearly two decades, I lived with my parents, who were divorced, in a tiny apartment with a few bookshelves.
They taught me to read, write, play piano and write poetry.
My mom would tell me that I would be a great writer.
But she never told me to stop working.
For the next 15 years, my dad worked for the Cleveland Browns and, later, the Cleveland Indians.
He taught me how to be a football player, and I wanted to be that person.
I never got the chance.
Then in the fall of 1977, my father died.
I was just 13 years older than him, and the loss was still fresh in my mind.
I remember thinking, This is all a big joke, and maybe he wasn’t so smart after all.
I had never met my dad before I left the apartment, but that night, I went to the Browns’ training camp at the stadium.
My dad had been a linebacker and a fullback in college, and after his retirement, he helped run the team’s training camp, which I think was where he met me.
He was a big, muscular guy who loved football, so I asked him to introduce me to his teammates.
I said, I’m just a little boy, but my daddy’s like the best player in the world.
And he just laughed.
So I told him I loved football and that I wanted him to be my hero.
My father’s eyes widened.
I knew I had made a huge mistake.
I thought maybe he would have been upset.
But instead, he said, That’s what I wanted you to do.
I wanted my father to be the guy who I would call when I needed help.
I’d become a father.
The next morning, I returned to the apartment.
My mother and I packed our things, and we set out for a drive down the highway.
There was no traffic on that part of the highway, so it was just us, my grandmother and my sister, who had gone to school nearby.
As I was driving along, I suddenly heard my dad’s voice.
He asked me, “Are you going to do it?”
My answer was, “Yes.”
He said, Then we should go back home.
I hesitated, and then I nodded my head and said yes.
We made it home and, a few minutes later, we were waiting in my sister’s bedroom.
She told me that her dad had called her, that she and her brother had gone back to their room and that my mom had called the police.
We waited for police to arrive and to tell us what had happened.
The police officers came, but it was too late.
The couple had been shot, and three of my sister and I had been killed.
My sister and her husband, Jerry and his wife, Kathy, were the first people to die.
My aunt was the second, and she died shortly afterward.
I have never felt so helpless, so helpless.
I spent days crying at home, and days at work.
My family moved to a different apartment in Cleveland, and, for the next three years, I spent my days alone in my room.
I couldn’t sleep, so my mom told me she’d take me to the hospital and take me home.
And then I felt guilty, because I didn of course want to see my mom.
And so, one day, my aunt called me at home.
She was a woman, with long blond hair and blue eyes.
She asked, “I’m so sorry, but what can I do for you?”
My mom was so shocked, she cried.
I cried too, and told her to come visit me.
My Aunt Grace came to visit.
We stayed for about a month and a half, and they took me to see Grace’s mother, who lived across the street.
She had died in 1995.
Grace had a young son named Joey, who was the most handsome boy I’d ever known.
He had a huge smile on his face and was so kind.
My grandma came and stayed with me for a while, too.