John, Salena and Taalibah Muhammad saw their father, John Allen Muhammad, arrested on Oct. 24, 2002, for a string of sniper shootings that killed 17 people in Washington, D.C., Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
In her latest book, I’m Still Standing, released in March, Mildred Muhammad writes about the deep pain and confusion the children suffered when their father refused to see them. Muhammad told the AFRO that on Nov. 10, 2009, the scheduled day of the execution, she tried desperately to get John Allen to at least call his children. “If he loves us,” Taalibah asked, “why won’t he talk to us? Why mom?”
The seconds ticked away, almost audibly, as the children sat anxiously by the phone waiting for their dad to call. But at 9:11 that Tuesday night, John Allen, her ex-husband who she says emotionally and mentally abused her, was declared dead. The phone call to his children never happened.
I’m Still Standing is a moment by moment narrative that begins with the emotionally crushing events that led up to the execution of the man known as the D.C. Sniper, the person, Mildred Muhammad said, she once loved.
The author says her book is for the victims and survivors of domestic violence, as well as those who are in a position to help, but may not know how. Muhammad reaches out through the personal stories of how her family wrestled with life, death and everything else in between.
Over the course of three weeks, beginning on Oct. 2, 2001, the D.C. Sniper and then 17 year old Lee Boyd Malvo terrorized the Washington area; gunning down ten people and injuring three others. In May Malovo’s life sentence was overturned because he was a juvenile at the time of conviction. The Virginia Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted Malvo, said in a statement it was considering whether to appeal the decision.
Muhammad’s book tells a clear recollection of those shadowy days. Notwithstanding the depravity of his crimes, to his children, John Allen was not the monster portrayed on TV. He was their dad and they loved him.
Muhammad writes about what followed in the wake of the execution. There were months of isolation and a lengthy road to normalcy, Muhammad said. It meant more than just putting pen to paper. It required her to go public with her story, which could expose her and the kids to criticism. Her first book, released in 2009, is called Scared Silent.
Muhammad said she and her children are like the overwhelming majority of domestic violence survivors. “80 percent,” she said “do not have physical scars to prove that they are victims.”
Her advice to anyone who may be in an abusive situation is to “tell someone…not just anyone, [just] one trusted friend,” she wrote. If you are planning to leave an abusive relationship, “be very strategic.” I’m Still Standing includes a safety plan on how to do that.
There are others, Muhammad writes, who may not know they are in an abusive situation. If you are unsure, she advises: get a sheet of paper, “… draw a line down the middle, mark one column pros and other cons. If the cons outweigh the pros, you may have a decision to make.”
The author follows through with sound step-by-step advice on what survivor’s options are and what they can do. Prodded by dreams in which she heard the cries of abused women, Muhammad began speaking publicly about their ordeal.
She said she is also working on a degree in psychology and hopes to earn her degree in 2018.