For Samantha’s Sake
I’ve dreamed of visiting Fleur-de-Lys, in search of icebergs. But I doubt I ever will, because the Samantha Walsh murder sits so heavy in my heart.
Living in Ontario at the time, I never heard of the tragedy when it occurred. Or if I was aware of it, I didn’t allow such information past the barriers I’d built to protect me from hearing such horrible stories. It’s because so many affected feel a need to tell me how they connect the song ‘Salt Water Joys’, with the young victim (“It was her favourite, and she sang it so sweetly”), that I now know Samantha’s story. It’s because her killer has recently been granted parole. And now it’s the sudden passing of Samantha’s father that has resulted in this sad affair being permanently brought to my attention.
I know it’s quite possible that there is not one Newfoundland adult who isn’t aware of the details surrounding this young girl’s death, but if someone from away is reading today’s column, on the Internet, I feel compelled to provide a bit of background – that in February of 2000, Samantha, 13, was murdered by a 16-yr old boy she knew and trusted, at a cabin near her Fleur-de-Lys home. Beyond that, all you need to know is that detail is deeply despicable on the part of the perpetrator, and enormously innocent on behalf of the victim.
Fleur-de-Lys is little more than an hour’s drive north of the Trans-Canada highway, on Route 410, between White Bay and Notre Dame Bay. I’ve thought it would be a great place to explore, on my way to the Deer Lake airport perhaps. Along the way, I could check out the effects that mining (asbestos, copper, lead, zinc, and gold) had on the 42 communities that once existed on that Baie Verte Peninsula. But with that investigation, my intention would be to see what crimes have been committed against the land (mountains of mine tailings, and large, ugly, open cut pits), not the people.
I’d like to see Fleur-de-Lys to get an idea why its sheltered harbour has been used off-and-on by humans for 4,500 years – first by the Maritime Archaic Indians, then the Grosswater Paleo-Eskimo 3,000 years ago, and the Middle Dorset 1,000 years after that.
I’d visit Fleur-de-Lys’ Interpretation Centre, to get a sense of what the community was like in the 1500s, when it was a seasonal fishing station for the French. I’d look for the rock formation that resembles the homeland’s national symbol, thus providing the community with its poetic name (‘Flower of the lily’). I’d imagine what the harbour looked like when the first full-time Europeans arrived – two brothers named Walsh, like Samantha. And I would wonder where, in 1888, 12,000 seals were slaughtered as part of what was then a thriving, significant industry. But today, I’m thinking I’ll never have enough reason to run up that road to Fleur-de-Lys - because Samantha’s murder sits so heavy in my heart.
Yet such a thought would probably hurt Sam – to think that people might not want to come to the community she loved; that someone may not wish to visit the town that her father and mother did so much volunteer work on behalf of, to make it a home for so many. So maybe I’ll need to rethink my stance. Maybe I’ll have to make Fleur-de-Lys an intentional travel destination this coming summer - for Samantha’s sake.