Southern People

Her mother encouraged photography; her father advocated school. She brought both to fruition.

It’s around 7 p.m. and DeKeisha Teasley sits down at her cherry wood computer desk, in front of her MacBook Pro. She peruses an application reading “The Red & Black” at the header. But she doesn’t wish to write for the university newspaper—she wants to be a photographer.

Teasley wants to capture important moments in people’s lives, the kinds of moments she had with her father before he was violently taken from her.

DeKeisha Teasley

D—-e—-K—-e—-i—-s—-h—-a, she types on the form. Each character more important than the last. She fills out the application knowing this opportunity could open doors for her. This could help her enjoy the life she has always dreamed of, the life her father would have wanted for her.

Photos of her father saturated newspapers and TV screens six years ago. She was only 13. Too young to fully understand and too old to forget.

She is proud that she had made it through the tragedy. Now, she invests her hopes behind a camera lens.

“Are you currently enrolled in classes at UGA?” Teasley checks “yes” on the form, placing an electronic checkmark where her cursor clicks.

Teasley knows she is able to take on the job. She’s been taking snapshots since her mother equipped her with disposable cameras as a child. When she received her first digital camera, a Kodak, as a 10th-grader on Christmas, she took it to school every day. Every person, place and thing was free game for a photo.

Evidence of her photography escapades are organized around her apartment bedroom. She and her college friends spending time in various places; portraits with her and her mother, Deborah, and sister, Deona.

A lone photo sits on her wall near the TV showing her parents posing with her as an infant. The three smile, looking away from the lens.

But there are no photos of her entire family together. None show her with her mother, sister and father. She knows she will never be able to have that snapshot.

On the morning of Friday, March 11, 2005, DeKeisha’s father, Hoyt, dropped her off at Jean Childs Young Middle School, just as he does every morning.

She was an eighth-grader sitting in her first period class when the school declared lockdown mode. The TV was on, but no one was paying attention to breaking developments flashing from the local news channel’s broadcast.

The morning hours crept by. The students were unaware of the severe situation plaguing their city but eventually were allowed to change classes.

All Teasley could think about was the midterm she was scheduled to take in her next class. She wasn’t even settled at her desk when her counselor and a resource officer showed up to excuse her.

The officer drives Teasley and her sister, a student at the nearby elementary school, to Grady Memorial Hopsital.

The entire family is sitting in the waiting room with distraught looks painted on their faces. The two sisters still don’t know why they are there.

Teasley’s mother tells them what happened. Deona immediately cries. DeKeisha, at first, is in shock. Numb to what her ears heard.

She finally lets her tears flow.

The doctor enters the waiting room to escort the sisters to see their father. He lays there motionless, victim to a fellow officer’s gun.

Her father, a sergeant for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, was on the job at the Fulton County Courthouse when Brian Nichols, an inmate who was in a holding cell in the newer courthouse facility, was changing from his jumpsuit to courtroom attire when he attacked the only deputy watching him.

Nichols took the deputy’s weapon and radio, walked through the sky bridge that connects the newer building to the older courthouse facility, entered the chambers of the judge who was presiding over his trial and demanded to see him.

The judge wasn’t present. One of his staff members hit the panic button for assistance, but when a deputy answered the call, Nichols disarmed the deputy at gunpoint and also took his weapon.

The suspect then went to the eighth floor courtroom where the judge was occupied with an unrelated trial and shot and killed the judge and court stenographer.

Not wearing a vest but determined to protect and serve, Sgt. Teasley pursued Nichols down numerous flights of stairs and out of the building. The suspect shot at him several times. Nichols fled the scene as Sgt. Teasley fell to the ground.

DeKeisha didn’t expect March 11 to be the last day her father saw her off to school. She predicted a typical school day.

It took time for her to accept her father’s death. She imagined him walking through the door one day and ending the nightmare she and her family constantly relived.

When she went to prom, he wasn’t there to light-heartedly threaten her date. When her braces were removed, he couldn’t greet her arrival home from the orthodontist with a smile.

Important moments in her life always met a void, reminding her that her father wasn’t coming back.

But Teasley tries not to think about the day her father was taken from her, but she does think about him.

Every time she sees police cars and officers, she thinks of him. When she watches the news and sees that someone was shot, she thinks of him. When her family and friends lose loved ones, she thinks of him.

Teasley holds on to the many lessons her father taught her. He instilled in her the importance of homework and doing well in school. He wanted her to go to college.

Her father often put math workbooks in front of her after school. He said she needed to learn math since he knew how to do it, and it was the easiest subject to learn.

She knew that he expected the best from her and wanted to make him proud.

Despite the great loss, she perseveres.

D—-e—-c. 2—-0—-1—-3, she enters her projected graduation date on the application.

Teasley keys in information about her previous employment and campus involvement, finishing the application. She skims over it for errors before clicking “print.”

This is it, she thinks to herself. She has never applied for a photography job before, but she was ready to put her Canon Rebel T2i to work. She knows her father would want her to chase her dreams full speed.

She hands in her application to a clerk at The Red & Black office, who places it in a nearby cubby hole.

She walks out of the building, hoping for an opportunity-filled phone call in the near future.

Crissinda Ponder

Crissinda Ponder

A proclaimed journalism junkie and aspiring multimedia professional. 21-year-old native of College Park, Ga., and senior at The University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.