This is something I wanted to hopefully share with the band, but here is good too. I apologize for the length. I had a lot to say.
I’ll Miss That Voice
I remember being in high school, being made fun of because I would listen to the Linkin Park album Meteora on my CD Player. “That’s such an emo band” I was told. Not to me. To me, that was a comforting sound in an uncomfortable place.
At the young age of 10, my mom moved our family from Kentucky to Florida with our stepdad Terry. Me, my two older brothers, my mom, and her new husband. We learned very quickly that Terry was a drinker. At first, things seemed ok. He attempted to smack my brother the first day we were there for forgetting his agenda. My mom stepped in and said that we don’t hit in this house. That was the first sign we missed. Terry made our life a living hell. Nothing was the same. Terry began drinking more, and became more violent as time went on. I was in fifth grade then, while my brothers were in middle school. To me, they seemed miles away, even when we were all at home. Terry would start drinking, and we would go outside to play. Sometimes we would just hide out in our rooms. Anything to stay away from him. I remember vaguely a day when my stepdad came after me. I ran for the bedroom and my older brother Timothy picked up a wrench to protect me. Terry was right to be scared. Timothy had a history of being a bit violent as well. It was an anger issue he got from our real dad. As the days went on, things only got worse. Every night, I would close my eyes and pray that I was back in Kentucky the next morning, living with my grandmother and grandfather. Morning would come, and my reality would sink me down even further. It was about halfway through my fifth grade year at North Lakeland Elementary that the day came that would forever be kept a secret. Until now. My elementary school was a year-round school. What this meant was that we would attend school for twelve weeks, and then have three weeks off. It was during one of my weeks off. I would be forced to spend the day inside because my mom and stepdad were at work. This particular week happened to be a week my stepdad was not working. I don’t remember why. I woke up early, and saw my brothers off to school and my mom off to work. There sat Terry, a beer in hand, and the TV on. I slumped into the chair, and grabbed a book. Around lunchtime, Terry told me to go get in the truck. I wasn’t stupid. At this point, I knew what drunk driving was and that it was dangerous. Doubly so with a camera. But my stepdad didn’t care. Now, I know you’re making guesses as to what happened next. Let me stop you now. I was not physically injured, nor was I touched inappropriately. No, I was scarred emotionally. That was the day I realized that the man I had been calling dad didn’t really care for me at all. He was perfectly comfortable driving drunk with me in the passenger seat. He took me to feed ducks, which consisted of him holding the camera in one hand and a beer in the other, while I threw bread to ducks. We got home, and I went straight to my room. It would take me quite a while to recover from the pain that caused. I never told my mom. I felt guilty. I didn’t do what I was taught. I got into the truck with the drunk guy, knowingly and willingly. It was either do that or risk being hit. And with no one else around, I was safer in the truck. Eventually, my mom and Terry got into a massive fight. One that ended in a divorce and a broken tv. Terry screamed at her, she screamed back. He grabbed a hammer. She said get out. He smashed the tv. We sat and watched. He left, she cried. She called the police, and was told that he was her husband. They couldn’t do anything about this. If only they knew the whole story. As soon as I finished school, we left Florida behind for the safety of Kentucky once more.
It was about this time that I found the comfort and safety of Linkin Park. The voice, the lyrics, all seemed so familiar. It wasn’t just a voice expressing anger, but anger born of fear, and remembrance. How could I knowingly go through so much hell and not do anything about it? How could I let the actions of an alcoholic man get so far underneath my skin?
The song Crawling sounded so real to me, not some guy trying to sell a style or genre, but trying to express a real, true, and deep emotion. “These wounds, they will not heal.” No matter what I do, they don’t go away. I continue to think about him, and to continue to get hurt by the memory. But I felt like the band understood.
Papercut began to feel more real as my middle school years began. Listening to that song during middle school made me realize that it was exactly how I felt. “Face that watches every time I cry, face that laughs every time I fall.” Why did I feel like everyone was judging me? Sometimes, it felt more real than other times. I was the poor white trash in a school of ghetto kids. I had to be careful of who I talked to, how I talked, and what I said. Anything could get you hurt at this school. Especially the type of music you listened to. And for me, that was a scary thought. I knew no one here would understand what Linkin Park was. Not the way I understood them. Bully’s loved to pick on my family at that school. Especially me and my cousin. Linkin Park was my safe place. I went to them whenever I felt overwhelmed or scared. I listened to Chester sing about the pain and struggle and I let it all out. It was my own personal form of therapy. They stuck with me. And I grew with them. Over the years, as I grew, I noticed the music growing with me. As my life seemed to get better, the music got more hopeful. Each album was more hopeful than the last. Then my grandpa passed away, in late 2009. The music was there to catch me when I fell. I struggled harder than ever then. I dropped out of high school, saying it was because I didn’t want to be in school if my grandma passed away. She did. Almost a year later. Taking my brother to work. That was even harder. She was just gone. But Chester’s voice was there. Mike’s vocals were there. The bands music kept me in a better spot than I might have been. The following year, on the anniversary of my grandfather death, my uncle passed away. The Messenger was my own little pick me up. It kept me hopeful during a time when hope seemed so far away. It still gives me that same feeling. Linkin Park was my therapist, and knew my fears and struggles better than anyone else. I could let my emotions go with them. I kept a happy face on for everyone else. It was about this time that I met my girlfriend. She was there for me when I needed someone, but I still needed Chester’s voice. I needed that reassurance that everything was going to be ok. I got better after that. My life was growing with the band, and the sound they were transitioning to fit with my own life transitions. The latest album, One More Light, is where I am now. Even in the darkest of times, things are hopeful. Then Chester passed away.
Celebrity deaths made me sad before. Great people passed away, and they will forever live on in their art. But this one was different. Who do I go to talk to when my therapist was the one who passed away? But I didn’t have that problem as bad as I thought I would. You see, Linkin Park was there for me to help me through tough situations, but they also helped me grow, so that when the time came, I would have more support around me. I had my wife. She is there for me, and doesn’t look at my tears for Chester as something from a crazy fan. It’s more than that. The tears I shed for Chester were for the passing of a close personal friend. For someone who knew me, had my secrets and fears, who made my life easier from just their voice. But There will not be any more growth with Linkin Park. A quote comes to my mind. “I will always be there as long as you need me.” My life has reached a point that I do not need them anymore. That doesn’t mean I don’t want them in my life, but my sessions of therapy end with this letter. They took care of me when I needed it most, and now, I am a grown man, living life to the fullest, being the best man I can be. So, if you really need to know, Linkin Park is more than a band. They are honest, caring, and growing. So, guys, please remember that, even in these tough times, you can lean on your fans, just as they have leaned on you. Your music helped so many, in so many situations, Please keep releasing more music, because we want it. Chester is in heaven now, looking down on us, like the angel he is.
“When you feel you’re alone, cut off from this cruel world, your instincts telling you to run. Listen to your heart, those angel voices. They’ll sing to you, they’ll be your guide back home. When life leaves us blind, love keeps us kind. When you suffered enough, and your spirit is breaking, growing desperate from the fight. Remember you’re loved and you always will be. This melody will bring right back home. When life leaves us blind, love keeps us kind. When life leaves us blind, loves keeps us kind.”
Chester, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I pray that the Lord protects you, and keeps you close, because you are an angel to many, and I pray that He protects the band and families. Stay with them through this tough time. They need you now more than ever. Let them know the fans are out there, crying with them, mourning with them. We are one. We are together. We are Linkin Park, living thanks to you. There is One More Light, and there always will be. I love you guys. Stay safe, stay strong. God Bless you.