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POWERFUL Women - Stories

What makes me a Woman of Strength? Story of Natacha Pannell (PART I)

Natacha Pannelnatachal is a Social Activist. She endured so much pain in her early pre-teen years. The experience she had to face shaped her to be the woman she is today and that woman is “A Woman of Strength.”  She continues to be active in her community and to help other families to deal with the pain of losing someone from gun violence. Natasha is currently working on her book and documentary. It was an honor to read her story and what makes her a woman of strength. 

I AM A Woman of Strength because I continue to persevere despite my circumstances. I believe in GOD and draw all my strength from GOD, my family, and in knowing there’s someone in the world who may perhaps be less fortunate, who still continues to carry on despite their odds.

I became a single mother and had to raise my son during challenging times. We were forced to move a several times, I gave up counting and this was very hard for my son, who had to change schools constantly. The final move was to New Jersey. I observed how unhappy my son became and I sensed he was on the verge to making bad choices when it came to his education I realized I had to make a tough decision regarding my son. When he was 14 years old, I had to agree to allow him to go live with his father and paternal grandmother. I knew in my heart this would be best for him. He needed a stable environment. It was also my son’s choice and his desire to live with his father and grow up around his younger half brother and sister.  I had finally developed the courage and unwavering faith to send him down to Virginia.

I started working longer hours to not deal with the pain of missing my son and worrying about him. In the company I worked at showed me how fortunate I was. Working with the mentally ill and criminally insane population, I witnessed their challenges. Throughout the years I have learned to be considerably grateful and thankful for what I do have and all that I have accomplished or overcame thus far in life.  Here is a brief snapshot of my life to validate “what makes me a woman of strength…”

I was forced to grow up at the age of 13 and became a “WOMAN OF STRENGTH” in that very moment when my older brother Phillip Pannell was murdered by a police officer. I can remember like it was yesterday. My brother was shot in the back, eye witnesses said to have seen my brother with his hands raised in the air and as he shouted don’t shoot, apparently his cry for his life fell upon deaths ears on that fateful day. When my mother and I arrived at Holy Name Hospital after we drove through a rainstorm, we were abruptly greeted by an assembly line of Teaneck police officers posted by the entrance to the hospital.  It put me in mind of a warzone! As my mother and I walked through the swarm of officers my mother cried out to them “why did you have to shoot him in the back why did you shoot my son in the back?” Before we entered through the doors we saw my brother’s friends, one banging his head against the wall with blood flowing down his face and others standing around crying hysterically. There were about several doctors and nurses all standing around with solemn, puzzled and dazed looks on their faces.  My mother shouted out “where is he?”, I just want to see my son,” while the doctors were trying to calm my mother down a few moments later they took my mother and I into a room, the room was very cold and grim it felt like a holding cell as we both awaited to enter a realm of confusion, darkness and mental defeat. The doctors told my mother, “He didn’t make it.”  They tried to revive him, even though he was dead on arrival (DOA.)  As a little girl just entering my pre teenage stages in life, I could recall my mother breaking down falling to her knees and saying “why, why, why my son, why Clint?” (Clint was my brother’s middle/nick name). I couldn’t stand watching my mother suffer so I jumped in to try and stop her pain in that very moment, I dropped down to my knees and joined my mother, as we both wept together and I seemed to have pulled it all together for a second or two and told my mother, “it was just us two now and we had to be strong find out what happened to him, Clint would want us to be strong and stick together and it was just us two now.”

Once my mother was able to calm down as she cried uncontrollably the entire time, as I cried along with her, we were then escorted by men in long trench coats and dark shades, followed by nurses and doctors, we were led into a room and there we saw my brother lying on a table with a sheet over his body with a hospital gown on.  Both my mother and I cried and cried as we touched Clint’s body he became colder and colder.  I immediately began to investigate I combed his body as he just looked like he was peacefully sleeping. I wanted to know for myself that he was really gone. So, I lifted his eyelids to see if he would wake up, as I saw his eyes turn greyish I realized he was not alive. I started to clean his hair by picking the grass out, I thought about searching for the bullet holes to confirm my brother’s friend’s information they told my mother and me when they came to our house to tell us Clint had been shot in the back and in the leg by a police officer.  I figured I wanted to know at that very moment what caused my brother to die and lye there so still, as if he was just sleeping, I wanted to know why he wasn’t getting up. I asked him over and over and over again “Clint wake up, Clint get up.” When the nurse and one of the men in the trench coats saw me observing my brother’s body they both told me to stop that I couldn’t do that.  The hospital staffs were in the room with my mother and I the entire time, they would not leave us alone with my brother’s body to say our last goodbyes, and it was a conspiracy from day one!

By Natacha Pannell

Read Here Part 2 


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