Today marks a somber anniversary in the history of Roselle Park. Today, ten years ago on February 6, 2005, 14-year-old Nicole Giovanni was killed by her mother who bludgeoned her daughter with a hammer and shovel inside the house they live in on West Grant Avenue. The only murder in Roselle Park in – almost – the last 20 years.
Her death recently came up as news again when her mother, who pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree manslaughter to avoid a trial, last month had a state appeals court rule that she should have a hearing to determine if she was wrongly denied a chance to withdraw her plea. Discussion about that or any of her other actions after she admittedly killed her own child is for another time. This is about taking a moment for Nicole Giovanni.
She would have been 24-years-old. No one knows what she could have been in 2015.
Some things Nicole will never be include those that easily to come to mind such as a mother, a wife, a girlfriend, a high school graduate.
While these examples could be termed clichéd, to be sure Nicole’s life would have had its ups and downs, just like we all have, and she would have made her share of good and bad decisions, just like we all make.
Some things Nicole will always be is a daughter, a sister, a friend. A mother still remembers while a father and family as well as friends still mourn.
As appalling as the headline grabbing details were, a murder happened in our one-square mile town. Now, this is in no way meant to give less importance to fellow Roselle Park residents who have died before or since because the absence of those loved and lost is felt whether it happened last week or 50 years ago. It especially does not marginalize those from Roselle Park who have died at the hands of another because to have life taken in such a tragic manner leaves emptiness that compounds to an afflicted heart.
What made it all the more disturbing was it happened here, in Roselle Park, a place that was described in one article as ‘a quiet, residential neighborhood’.
It shocks our senses because such things are not supposed to happen here. Murders happen somewhere else to someone else. It is something we put out of our minds. We are, after all, “a quiet, residential” town. Maybe that is why today goes without any significant mention and most know nothing about it except in passing conversation. As for those personally touched by Nicole’s murder, they have memories of her before February 6, 2005 and know her for more than just what happened to her that Sunday morning.
Still, Nicole mattered. Strike that, Nicole matters.
She matters because no one deserves to have their life taken away under such brutal circumstances. She matters because even though she did not go to school here and she had recently moved in with family in town before her death, she was a Roselle Park resident. She was a real person, plain and simple. She lived on a street we all know. She could have been someone we saw in passing as we drove around or walked to an event. But now all her ‘could have beens’ are gone forever.
To wish that we as a town could be protected forever from such tragedy is understandable. No place wants to be known for such a thing. But perhaps the better thing to take note of is that we are not a town known for being unsafe or dangerous or violent. Maybe the thing to aspire to is to find out how we as a community react when such a horrific thing happens.
Will murder take place in Roselle Park? No one wishes that but no one can guarantee that it will not happen either. If it does, will we rally around and be the epitome of Roselle Park, make the best of being a one square mile town? One just need look to the recent examples in which neighbor helped neighbor during Sandy or even all the help that came in after a family lost all their material belongings due to a fire just this month. Those acts of unity are things that will, in the face of whatever happens, keep us a quiet, residential town.
If anything, maybe Nicole’s death can help us remember what really matters and that, in the end, we all matter. As for Nicole’s memory, her life should be celebrated.
September 5, 1990 – February 6, 2005