It has been a long, long week and I can barely keep my eyes open, but in a way, it's fitting, as the Goldman case comes to a close. Tonight, Dateline is airing a two hour special about the case, and I'm excited and afraid to relive the whole thing all over again. Because I have been on the roller coaster that is this case for nearly a year and a half, and it has been a crazy ride.
I was sitting at an ancient computer, shivering in the mountains of Rio state in September 2008 when I first heard about David's story. A reader sent me a link to the MSNBC story, and the floor fell out from under me as I scanned the words. I read it twice, and then a third time. I had to help.
So I started writing about the case, back when the Brazilian media was "banned" from telling the story, or really, was too chicken to defy the powerful Carioca clan who threatened to sue them all (they did, by the way, subpoena Rede Record, which filmed a piece on the case earlier on). A lone journalist, Dorrit Harazim, was the first Brazilian to really tell David's story in the magazine Piaui. Even back then, the American media wasn't that interested; NBC was among the first to cover the story. Only after Dateline's piece in January 2009 did the press on both continents perk up, and only then did the wheels really start spinning.
I realized quickly what I had gotten myself into, the risks I was taking, and the threats I was facing. But even though I spent nights tossing and turning, days destroying my nails, and plenty of nasty opposition, I knew it was worth it, because it was the right thing to do.
Eli and I soon discovered we could be useful by creating a bridge between Brazil and the US, namely by translating, but also keeping on top of developments in Rio and relaying them to the US. We did our best to get the word out in Rio, which wasn't easy, especially before the media agreed to cover the story. I was haunted every day by the fact that Sean was so close by, and I was utterly and completely powerless to what he was going through.
Through the case, I met and became friends with people I'm still friends with today, and also met people I never would have come in contact otherwise: a gun-toting, joke-cracking Texan, extremely dedicated Brazilians living in the United States (some of whom became David's fiercest supporters), tough moms from New Jersey, journalists, lawyers, and students, to name a few. This part was good.
But in the end, it was the case that gave me and Eli the kick in the behind we needed to get our act together and make plans. I truly hate to say this, but it was this case that opened my eyes to so many other issues in Brazil, especially in Rio, that made me realize it was time to go home. I'm not sorry about the rude awakening, though; while I feel a bit jaded, I feel better, knowing I was forced to take a good hard look at things I wouldn't have wanted to see otherwise. David's case is just a drop in the bucket.
On Christmas Eve morning, I sat at my desk in New York, weeping and hiccuping as I replayed the video of the plane taking off. It felt surreal, especially since I was beginning to believe Sean might never come home. Without Dateline, there would have been no Chris Smith; without Chris Smith, there probably wouldn't have been Hillary and Obama, and without them, there probably wouldn't have been Lautenberg, there at the bitter end. Without the pressure from this group and the media, I really believe the case would have languished in the courts even longer, possibly even until Sean turned 12 and they couldn't send him home anymore. It really felt like a miracle to see that plane take off.
I hope this is nearly the last post I write about this case (I'm going to post the Dateline videos once they're online). I don't want to have to write about the potential things that could happen: the grandmother baking a cake and bringing it to the Palacio do Planalto in Brasilia, the latest stunt from the Brazilian family lawyer, or any other crap Grobo manages to invent. This case is effectively closed, and Sean is finally home. I'm just happy I played a small role in helping achieve justice and bringing an end to so much sadness. I'm glad I got to be a little cog in the big wheel.