I’m going to ask you to imagine yourself in a place that no parent would ever want to be. Imagine you’re at home on a Sunday night and your son’s curfew is approaching. You are anticipating at any minute the door will open and he walks in safe and sound. Then it’s thirty minutes past curfew and you begin to get anxious. You are probably getting upset with him for being late. Then you call his cell phone and no answer. You are getting really upset with him. An hour passes still he has not come home and he is not answering his phone. Two hours pass you have already started calling family and friends checking to see if anyone has seen him. Hours will turn into days and days will turn into weeks and you have no idea where your son is.
All you know is his vehicle was found burned in a place that he should not have been. You are putting yourself in front of every media outlet, social media post and door you can walk through franticly wanting to know where your boy is. Search parties are formed, rewards are advertised but no results. Then you hear the news that the body of a young man has been found. Is it him? Do you want it to be him, which would end all hope of a safe reunion, but would still, at least be an end? You find out it is him. Then you find out that his final hours are more horrific than you can imagine. Pistol-whipped, forced to ride in his own vehicle, then forced to walk down a trail, all the while pleading for his life, the final minutes of his life he is begging, crying, scared and alone. Then the fatal shot penetrates and upon hearing this all you can hope for is that he didn’t suffer anymore than what he already had.
I can’t imagine that kind of personal horror. I don’t even want to know how I would carry on. But for Ben and Edie Grunwald there is nothing to imagine. This is the reality of what happened to their beloved son David. Amongst the tragedy and their grief, they have mustered up the strength to attend every hearing of the four young men who have been charged with being involved in the murder and the one who has been accused of obstructing justice. The Grunwalds have been there every step of the way. It would be natural if they would have piled up the dirt around them and hunkered down at their residence mired in their anguish, but they haven’t.
Edie Grunwald has emerged as more the face of the couple in this highly publicized case of a murdered teenage boy who had a bright future in front of him. Edie is willing to sit down and tell David’s story. She is very honest about her son. After having a conversation with Edie a few months ago I came away with the fact that David wasn’t extraordinary. He was a typical 16-year-old boy who was working toward his future after high school. He had traits that made him unique, endearing and yet, like most boys his age, a bit quirky. Politics and current events were among his favorite topics of conversation.
As the quiet rumblings against SB91, the senate bill that would overhaul the criminal justice system in Alaska, turned into a thunderous roar a face has emerged for those who are actively wanting real change. David Grunwald could easily be the poster child but Edie Grunwald is the face and voice that every legislator should see and hear as they tread through the most pressing issue Alaska is currently facing. The people of Alaska have grown exhausted of the rhetoric and petty fighting between the Senate, House and Governor of Alaska over the budget, income tax and PFD caps. But they want solutions to the rise of crime in Alaska.
Edie Grunwald has been vocal at every town hall meeting on the subject. Again, it would be understandable if she stayed home and grieved, but she didn’t. She and her husband are not only working to keep their son’s memory alive, they are working to create change.
You see, prior to David’s death, these young men have been tied to a string of criminal activity from theft, kidnapping, sexual assault and even the death of another teenager. Leaving people, especially the Grunwalds, scratching their heads wondering how did these young men who stand accused of David’s murder remain on the streets.
Edie Grunwald believes she knows the answers and instead of sitting in her own anger she wants to do something about it. She has since put her name on the ballot for Lieutenant Governor for the State of Alaska. Being named the first recipient of the Frontiersman’s ‘Person of the Year’ is not an endorsement for her candidacy. There is a long way to go before we, the voters, can determine who the best candidate is. This recognition is about a mother who lost a son, who then turned her grief into a voice for positive change for the Mat-Su Valley. Change has already begun emerging with SB54 passed in the last State legislative session and sure to be tweaked some more in the first and hopefully only session in 2018.
If I had a sure bet for 2018 it would be that we will be hearing much more from Edie and Ben Grunwald this new year and years to come.
Thank you for reading the Frontiersman