It Happened to Me: I Was Supposed To Get Married At the Navy Yard The Week Of The Mass Shooting


We both giggled and smiled as I unzipped the garment bag and reached in to take out my wedding dress. With my dress half in and half out of the bag, that was the very moment that my phone rang.   It was the Navy Yard.  "We are sorry to inform you that your wedding has been canceled."

(Originally posted in 2013.  Re-posted due to the 9/16/14 anniversary of the Navy Yard shooting.)

Prior to September 16th, no one had ever heard of the Navy Yard.  “You are getting married where?” That day's events changed all of that.  Everyone all over the country knew exactly where our upcoming wedding was going to be held. It was scheduled for Sunday, September 22nd.

I was getting ready to stand in front of a room full of people to facilitate a training session when a slew of words and phrases injected themselves into my thoughts.

“Did you hear about the shooting at the Navy Yard?

“Twelve people are dead.”

“They are still looking for the shooter.”

There was no time to think about my wedding at the Navy Yard. It was showtime and I was on. I forced myself into facilitation mode and tried to stay there for as long as I could. At dinner and during breaks, I felt myself crawling into a never-ending list of questions and what-if’s… and then reality would pull me back in…until the next text or voice mail would pop up on my phone asking me if I had heard about the shooting.

My cousin started making calls to another venue. For me, the thought of contacting and moving 300 people just seemed too overwhelming to me.  The barrage of voice mails and text messages sent me into a world where stress and questions made everything seem to stand still. Was this really happening? Out of all of the places to get married, was there really a mass shooting at the very place we chose to get married? And then came the questions:

“Even if you can still have your wedding, do you really want it there?”

“What are you guys planning to do?”

“Can you find another place to have it?

“Can you postpone it?”

It was now 9:30 pm and I had just stepped into my hotel room, marking the end of my conference for that evening. It would all begin again in the morning at 7 am.  

Exhausted, I switched on the television to see faces of the distraught, mourning their co-workers.  I thought about the families who were devastated and the people who had been glued to the news channels for the entire day.  My phone vibrated. It was a text from a friend, “What color should I wear to your wedding?” I quickly picked up my phone and called her,

“Have you not been listening to the news?” 

“I have been watching it all day”, she said. “But we are having a wedding on Sunday. So, what color should I wear?”

That 10 second exchange was all I needed.  I immediately let go of whatever was not in my control. Even if we were going to get married in my parents' backyard, there was going to be a wedding on Sunday.  All we wanted was to get married and both of us agreed that whatever the circumstances, that would still happen.

Fast forward to Thursday, September 17th.  I was headed to my last fitting with the seamstress. The Conference Center staff from the Navy Yard called and promised to let me know as soon as they knew something.  I headed back to my office with my wedding dress in my hands, honestly hoping for the best.

I popped my head in a friend’s office. “Do you want to see my dress?” I whispered to her.  She nodded feverishly. We both giggled and smiled as I unzipped the garment bag and reached in to take out my wedding dress. With my dress half in and half out of the bag, that was the very moment that my phone rang.   It was the Navy Yard. 

"We are sorry to inform you that your wedding has been canceled."  It was Thursday afternoon and the wedding was on Sunday. After months of planning, a twenty second message erased every ounce of laughter in the room.  I sat down, put my hands over my face and the tears began.  

The Navy Yard had informed me that they were doing their best to reschedule the wedding at an alternate location, minutes from the Navy Yard.  An hour later, the director of the Navy Yard let us know that our wedding had been officially moved. The start time would have to be pushed back and hour and a half. I had a matter of hours to collect the name, date of birth, and driver's license information from all 300 guests so they could enter the front gate.

I don’t believe there is a word in the dictionary to describe the amount of stress I was under at that moment.  I am sure that the five new grey hairs that I currently have, all came from that 24 hour period. Both of our families kicked into full gear to help call, email, and text as many people as they could. And the staff at the new location was AMAZING. (An extra thank to Lynn!) They all did whatever they could to ensure that we would have an incredible wedding surrounded by our friends and family.

By Sunday, all of that stress was in the past. We couldn’t have asked for a more amazing ceremony or reception, mostly because everyone we loved was there to watch us profess our love for each other.  We had a room filled with laughter, tears, dancing, and smiles from wall to wall. And we both got our wish…to spend the rest of our lives together.


Be sure to check out my book on Amazon: The Gift of Past Relationships


Ray Rice and Domestic Violence: Why His Wife Married Him


Domestic violence is never just physical.  Abusers don’t build up your self-esteem. They either tear it down or capitalize on it being low in the first place. They tell you that no one else wants you.  They tell you that no one else will love you the way they do.  And people in abusive relationships swallow the “You will never find another person like me” pill, every single day until they build up a resistance. They can no longer hear anyone who tells them that they are beautiful or that they deserve more, or that they should leave.  They become immune to anyone who contradicts the other person in their relationship.

People get involved in abusive situations because they don’t love themselves, but people stay because they grow to love the other person more than they love themselves.  More than likely, they didn’t have a person in the home telling them they were beautiful or that they were enough.  They most likely experienced some type of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse that served as their blueprint for a relationship.  When they were old enough to start dating, they unrolled the blueprint and tried to replicate the feelings and emotions they learned from their childhood experience. 

Their childhood experiences taught them what love was supposed to feel like.  If anyone in their life consistently made them feel less than, ashamed, or unloved, they subconsciously sought to recreate those feelings.  That was their concept and definition of love.  

 Physical abuse and grooming have a great deal in common.  Grooming a child for sexual abuse begins with buying them toys and gifts, spending quality time with them, becoming the friend or uncle or aunt that they have always wanted, giving them emotional and financial support, and causing them to feel that their world would be incomplete without you in it.  Then comes the hand on the knee.  A week later, the hand gradually moves closer to the thigh.  Later, the hand moves into the most private areas that “strangers” shouldn’t touch.  But this person isn’t a stranger.  And so begins the abuse along with the confusion, guilt, and shame.  Did I deserve this? I can’t tell my parents now because I let it continue for so long.

Physical abuse is very similar.  Both are gradual processes.  No one punches you in an elevator on a first date.  Instead they present themselves as an Oscar-winning actor in a romantic movie.  Weeks or months into the relationship, after you are smitten, an insulting comment falls off their tongue, along with the guilt and shame.  (“I must have deserved that.”) A push comes after an argument.  (“I said something to cause that.”)  A slap meets a cheek.  (“I shouldn’t have raised my voice.”)

The most accurate description I have ever heard to describe physical abuse is a frog in a pot.  If a frog is thrown into boiling water, it would jump out.  But if a frog is placed in room temperature water that is gradually turned up, they don’t notice until the water is too hot to jump out of and the pot is too dark to see the light.  The shame and guilt of not getting out earlier or having to expose their secret to their friends and family, serves as their lid.  

Blaming the victim leads to people staying in abusive relationships.  They will say I should have left a long time ago.  They will say I deserved it because I was too stupid to leave.  With any situation, you are either part of the problem, or part of the solution.  So if you are one of the people who asked why Janay Rice married Ray Rice after he knocked her unconscious in the elevator, or if you said “She only married him for his money” then you are part of this societal problem that we call domestic violence. 

The whole point of domestic violence is to emotionally capture the mind, to make a person not want to leave, to cause them to think there is nothing better out there, and to make them uncomfortable confiding in someone else to further isolate them from friends and family.  They are often threatened with abuse if they leave, and what is to come has already been proven with black eyes, bruises, cuts, and emotional scars. 

Instead of asking what is wrong with a person for staying, we need to start asking what is wrong with a person for rendering another person unconscious.  Remember that, the next time you judge a person for staying in a relationship.