The Firecracker

“Let Freedom Ring, Let The White Dove Sing, Let The Whole World Know That Today Is A Day Of Reckoning Let The Weak Be Strong, Let The Right Be Wrong, Roll The Stone Away, Let the Guilty Pay, It Is Independence Day”—Martina McBride, Independence Day


Her mama told me that she was born on July 4th and that she would live her entire life reflective of the day she was born.  She told me that her daughter was a “firecracker”.  She told me that she was funny, smart, and on a mission to defy the odds of adolescent decisions.  Her mama told me that she had the most beautiful green eyes and curly hair with huge ringlets.  Amaya promised to go far in life and build her parents a home so that they would never have to work or worry about anything.  She was looking forward to her second paycheck from Dunkin’ Donuts.  Her mama told me that the two of them were going to get their nails done with some of her hard earned money.

Her mama told me of the warm June morning when the firecracker was extinguished at the hands of her 26- year old boyfriend, one month shy of her 18th birthday.  Her mama told me how the judge told her murderer: “You killed Amaya Cruz by bludgeoning her”.  Her mama told me how they had to cover her neck at her funeral because he strangled her first.  She told me that she could tell that the firecracker fought for her independence because of the defensive bruises on her tiny hands.  “I noticed that at the funeral” she told me.  Her mama told me how her murderer banged on their door begging for them to call 911.  He held her lifeless body while first responders rushed to reignite the firecracker.  Her monster denied questions of involvement even though her blood was on his shoes, his hands and on bricks he used to kill her.

Her mama told me about her dad who’d adopted Amaya and raised her as his own. Her mama told me that the firecracker never recovered from her biological father’s struggles with demons of his own.  Her mamma told me about Amaya’s twin siblings and how they refuse to talk about it outside their little family.  Her mama told me of another sibling who still struggles with her sister’s murder almost 4 years later.

Her mama told me that the firecracker’s murderer is sitting in jail, awaiting trial.  Her mama was having a good day when she relayed this story to me.  “I am ok today, some days are just better than others” she told me.  She told me of hundreds of text messages between Amaya and her murderer, none of which she has been able to read yet.  She told me that Amaya was going to break up with her monster that morning.  Court records cite one text message where the firecracker told him: “If you touch me when I get home, we are done for real this time”. 

The firecracker never got her chance.  Her lifeless, beaten body was left under a tree for her entire family to find.

The world is a little bit dimmer because of that fateful June day.  Amaya’s mama reached out to BTS and I probably speak for the entire organization when I say that this story is one of the saddest stories and the unfortunate truth about domestic violence and young people.

Amaya’s mamma, and her whole family, will be recipients of a scholarship specifically for our “Angel Families”.  Amaya’s mama couldn’t tell me how they could use the funds.  Amaya’s mamma wanted the money to go to “a more deserving family”.  Amaya’s mama, Amaya’s family, needs you and they need me.  This beautiful young soul, born on America’s Independence Day, has to live on in this world.  Her story needs to be told, and retold and you and I have to be part of the solution.  Amaya’s mama made me cry, Amaya’s story makes me cry.  Amaya’s story reminds me that somebody could be writing this about me, or you.

BTSADV has an exciting program that exists for the sole purpose of helping surviving victims and family members of unspeakable violence. Every year, BTS has an event dedicated to Angel Families.  It is the Angel Run, held each year, and is June 23 this year.  This year, the Angel Run is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Runners raise money for Angel the Angel fund.

Angel Run Fund raising efforts are for advocacy programs for Angel Families.  This includes, but not limited to the following:

1)   Provide awareness to the general public about the pervasiveness of murders in domestic violence situations.  Most people are unaware of this epidemic.

2)   Provide awareness of the warning signs of abusive intimate partner relationships.

3)   Provide academic scholarships to students impacted.

4)   Provide programs and support to angel families

5)   Provide education to the general public in order to stop the unfair judgment carried by family members of domestic violence murder victims

6)   Provide family members a safe place to share their stories for the first time.

I agreed to write Amaya’s story because I know that there is a massive group of people out there who refuse to let stories like Amaya’s remain the narrative.  We have to change the narrative.  We have to tell Amaya’s mamma and her family, that we care and we have to do it with our time and if possible with our money.  All funds raised will go to Amaya’s family, that money will be used to meet the needs of the family, as well as possibly provide an opportunity for Amaya’s mama (and maybe family members) to attend the “Angel Family Retreat”.  This is a time where time and resources are poured into Angel families, in an attempt to help them heal and provide self- care.

How can you help?  Donations are the most effective way to help Amaya’s mamma

Here are are a few ways to donate:
1)   You can do that by texting run4angels56 to 71777.
2)   You can also donate directly to Break The Silence on our website and Amaya’s team by clicking on the link
3)   You can also use the link provided on Facebook.

All donations are tax deductible.  While few of us can attend the Angel Run in Colorado, the 5K can also be run virtually with your friends and family donating to the cause.  Our hope is to form teams around the country running for Amaya, and show this family by our actions that we care, we care about her and we care about the firecracker.  And how all of us would have done anything in the world to prevent this pain.  But we can’t do that, but we can do something!  If you aren’t a runner, and still want to be part of “Team Amaya” that is awesome, we are looking for every avenue to provide the most advantageous scholarship possible to this family.

You can help by sharing this article with your friends and family.  You can help by sharing some of your light with the firecracker’s family.

My conversation with Amaya’s mama changed me forever.  That day where the firecracker was extinguished cannot be undone.  The pain that Amaya’s mamma wakes up with everyday may dim but it will never go away.  Her siblings will always remember her lifeless body lying under that tree.  The only thing to do now is to provide your own light to this situation.  Amaya’s mamma won’t ask for it and will have a really hard time receiving it, but she needs your help.

Because Independence Day has to come and we are the people to bring it.


4 thoughts on “The Firecracker

  1. Team amaya…… So young…. God be with her. Beautifully written, sad to hear. I’m so fortunate to have gotten out when I did….. On so many levels.

    Thank you for writing her story.


    1. Thank you! And this story brought some reality to me too. You don’t ever think it’s going to be you but looking back I’m so lucky to be alive! 💜


  2. Hi Amy Watson. This is Eric. Amy’s big brother and Amaya’s eldest uncle. I was living in the USVI and woke up on that fateful day to a phone call. I couldn’t breathe. I had to go open the bar and go to work. Good friends down on St. Thomas helped me. Our family was together. I stood by Amaya during the entire funeral guarding her precious body. Lifelong friends were there with concealed firearms in the event that the animal showed up. Amaya was the most precious things I have ever known. To just be able to hear her say “Uncle Eric” again. Thank you for writing this story.


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