The day was gloomy, rainy & cold but as we stood there on the hill overlooking the crumbling buildings that had housed & claimed to help “reform” thousands of boys for over 100 years, we hardly noticed. Our focus was on the bones that were lying on the top of the tall grass. We both stood there quietly trying to determine if what we were looking at could possibly belong to one of the boys who had been unfortunate enough to have been sentenced to live at Dozier. They were small but not so small that we could say beyond the shadow of a doubt that they belonged to some animal passing through. However upsetting it was, we had to move away…There was nothing else we could do. If there had been any way to know for sure that we were looking at the bones of a murdered child, we would have called in EVERY troop possible & taken whatever consequence we were given for trespassing on federal property BUT as USF had covered that particular area during their investigation (an investigation that had only recently been concluded) with a fine tooth comb, we figured the odds of human bones being left behind were slim to none…And those odds were so NOT worth the risk of getting ourselves busted. We did, however, take a few pics just in case anything ever actually did come out, at least we could hand some type of proof off. We took a few deep breaths & moved on.
We spent a lot of our time wandering the perimeter of the tall chain link fence with the razor wire at the top, hoping to find just one small opening OR unlocked gate that would allow us to get inside those buildings but never did find a way in. When we came back together, it was already late in the day & we were losing daylight quickly. Normally we would both be chatty, joking, singing, laughing, interrupting each other with crazy stories BUT at this moment we were both quiet. I was standing there wishing that I had brought flowers when the Bestie broke the silence by saying “We should go buy some flowers & bring them back.” I literally stared at her & blinked, impressed at her ability to read my mind. We turned to head back to the car when she voiced another observation…That it was really, really quiet. We both stopped walking & thought about it. We were surrounded by thick woods, overgrown grass, bushes & lots of other debris & yet NOT a sound was heard. It wasn’t just quiet, it was eerily silent…NOT a bug buzzing, NO birds chirping & NOT even any animals making noises in the trees. The more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me that NOT only weren’t we hearing any of these things BUT we hadn’t even actually seen a bug, bird OR squirrel anywhere on the property! Wondering why, we began walking again when a random butterfly came out of nowhere & landed on my boot! It was quite startling as NOT only had we NOT seen OR heard ANY sign of life, BUT out of everything we should have seen OR heard, a bright orange butterfly on a cold, rainy November day near dusk would have been last on our list. It even let me bend down & pick it up…It did eventually fly out of my hand as we snapped a quick pic! I’d like to think that maybe this was some type of sign from the boys who never got to go back home…Letting us know that they were OK, BUT I’m sure there are some out there that think it’s just some random event.
We finally made it back to the car & drove to the closest store, where we bought some white roses & quickly returned back to the Dozier property. We spent the remainder of our time there quietly placing them around the school grounds, some on the hill & some along the fence line. The remaining daylight was almost gone & it had began to rain again. It was time to leave. As we turned to go, I looked back at the buildings that had become shadows & said a little prayer in my mind. Something deep inside me knew that this would NOT be the end of my obsession with Dozier & I would be coming back…I just didn’t know that it would be almost exactly 2 years later & how much more obsessed I would become with finding out what had happened within the walls of of this notorius institution.