A Celebration of Life

Whose story left to tell?
by Talia Rodriguez


Norma Santiago was a loving mother who fell victim to gun violence perpetrated inside her children’s public school at the hands of her estranged husband. She was the first person I ever knew whose life was taken.

My father and Norma’s husband were both law enforcement officers and our families were bonded one summer. Not for long- mom noticed Norma’s husband was “not the nicest” and though my father was no boy scout (he actually was – but you get what I’m saying) he agreed. During our last shared family outing I was never able to forget my memory.

I didn’t like Ferris wheels. I volunteered because I could see she feared going up with him alone.

A milestone, in the building of my young self-confidence, I felt proud I could help someone. That moment was immediately followed by a sobering sense of dread. While we were suspended in the air, I watched his eyes as he mentally fantasized about pushing her over. Being from the hood guessing at what was coming next was survival. He never pushed her out of the car that day, but I’ll never forget his eyes full of rage.

Ten years old and smart enough- I told mom – He was going to kill her. I remember her taking me seriously, that was the last time we saw them. But I saw his eyes forever.

A handful of years later she was gone. A tragedy for all. There’s a blog I found memorializing her life by curating news coverage on her passing. When I found the page, I teared up, there she was in a bumper car at an amusement park.

Part of my life is dedicated to advocating for vulnerable women and children like I had once been. Being honored as a storyteller this coming month I reflected. Whose story left to tell?

I decided Justice is best served in the form of celebration of one’s life. Norma, may you rest in peace you have not been forgotten.

The following is an anonymous contribution by someone on site of the murder:

1. How did the act of violence that culminated in Norma’s passing affect your life? – The act of violence changed my life because it was the first time I remember experiencing trauma. I couldn’t articulate that as a child but I distinctly remember knowing something evil just took place. I remember feeling scared and I remember seeing the body bag being rolled out of the door. I remember thinking “shes dead” there were people everywhere, so much confusion.

2. What did you learn that day? – I think what I learned that day was that men are dangerous. That I should fear my future husband. No matter how long its been I always think back to that man taking his wife’s life. I feared men. I feared having a husband.

3. What overall do you remember? – My overall impression was fear. I think there was fear instilled in me that day that has never left my body, now I’m triggered when I have to do active shooter drills at work. I was 7 years old back then. I was in second grade, I knew his family because one of their daughters was my classmate at the time and the other daughter was in my sisters class. I haven’t spoken to them since 1997.

Photo of a blue rose in bloom by Nefeli Andriopoulou from www.pexels.com
Photo of Ferris wheels and Norma with a child provided by Talia Rodriguez

Talia Rodriguez is a bi-racial, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual Latina from Buffalo. Ms. Rodriguez’s mission is to write about Latina’s, who have shaped the face of our city and our region. It is Ms. Rodriguez’s believes that our own people should inspire us and in telling our collective stories, we push our community forward. Ms. Rodriguez is a community advocate and organizer. She is a 5th generation West Sider, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and an avid baseball fan. She lives on the West Side with her young son A.J… Ms. Rodriguez sits on the board of several organizations including the Belle Center, where she attended daycare. Ms. Rodriguez loves art, music, food, and her neighbors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *