John Winter R.I.P.: the Readers React
At the risk of offering too much, I figured I’d present a blog post with some of the comments I’ve received by email since my stories on WFLA weatherman John Winter’s suicide have been published online and in the newspaper. (WFLA's guest book for him is here)
When I spoke to his family Friday, they had not decided on a memorial or funeral arrangements. But that has changed: His family now says they will hold a private funeral for John on Tuesday morning, to be followed by a public memorial on Tuesday afternoon. The public service will be held just blocks from WFLA's studios at the Hyde Park United Methodist Church on 500 W. Platt Street at 4:00 p.m.
Instead of flowers, his family has requested donations be made in John's name to these organizations that reflect his longtime passion for helping children and animals:
* The Rough Riders Teddy Bear Drive, P.O. Box 75892, Tampa, FL 33675.
* All Children's Hospital, St. Petersburg, FL
* Hillsborough County Animal Services, P.O. Box 89159, Tampa, FL 33689.
Here’s a few of the most poignant emails I have received so far:
I considered suicide for the last time in January 2001, and committed myself to a mental hospital because of the fear I would follow through and actually drive my truck into that 100-year old oak tree well off the road (so I would harm no one else), full speed ahead. I had been eyeing that particular tree for weeks without being aware of what I was contemplating. I was lucky because I recognized the danger of the thoughts I was having prior to acting on those thoughts. I had, and have, people around me who love me and care about me, but there are emotions too difficult to express to those you love the most. I was able to be open and totally honest with strangers because I knew these were people who were specially trained and had the knowledge to help me and NOT empathize with me and tell me "Things will look brighter tomorrow" or "Just snap out of it and smile!"
I have suffered from depression for over thirty years, using therapy and medications that in the end were not solutions, only stop-gap measures. However, I finally found a therapist and psychiatrist who accurately diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, which has completely changed my life for the better. I am now getting the correct medications that have helped me immensely, and my therapist and I are making great progress. I feel hopeful now, something I haven't felt since I was a child - and that is no exaggeration. I will say that living without hope is very difficult indeed, and at times seems pointless.
This past December a very special and much-loved close family member attempted suicide. I cannot describe the feelings that engulfed me, other than to say "devastation." My entire family was profoundly affected by her action and, in the end, in a positive way - but ONLY because she was not successful in her suicide attempt. The depth of my family-member's emotional turmoil was recognized, and she began to receive the help she had so urgently needed. She, just like me, has also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I vividly recall feeling as if I was in a deep and dark hole with nothing overhead but darkness - while at the same time being all "sweetness and light" at work. I was continually smiling and doing all I could to boost other's spirits and to help other people with their problems. However, at the same time, I was also wishing I was dead - that my life was over and my pain had ended. But, to reiterate, I have hope again, after all the years that have passed, and I am no longer fearful that my emotional well-being is directed by some unknown force and will change for the worse, for some reason unknown to me.
I understand the pain John Winter's family and friends are going through, and empathize. I hope that they will all come to the realization that there was nothing, NOTHING at all that any of them could have done, did not do, did do, or did wrong, that could have stopped or caused Mr. Winter's actions. In the end, when we make that decision to end our life or not, we each stand alone, and whether we choose to live is left to each of us alone.
I think that it is so sad. I had watch Mr. Winter since I was a lil girl and I have grown to love him. And I want his family to know that they have my prayers and thoughts. And I hope they are able to get through this. But I understand where people are coming from when they said they want to end it all. I am 19 years old and I think about killing myself all the time due to the fact on how I was raised. I was in diffrent foster home and the foster home parents where mean and nasty because I was a black female so I ran away and started sexing my body for money. And every time I laid down with a diffrent man I just wanted to roll over and end it all.
Your article today on a follow up about John Winter's suicide was very good. I just have one thing I would like to encourage the media to do...........A show on suicide is important, but I think even more important is something being written about depression. Everyone was looking for answers about how this could have happened to a man who appeared to have it all. It is so sad to hear that it was depression and it wasn't treated properly. Maybe this could have been prevented. How very sad for his family and the whole Tampa Bay area. News reports about this disease might help to save someone's life.
I am fairly undone by the news of John Winter's passing. We had been e-mailing each other as recently as two weeks ago. He was one of the last people I saw before I moved. I guess I'll never forget the e-mail bantering we would engage in during his morning shows. It was a fun way to wake up. I'll miss his funny one liners both on the television and in his notes. I'm so sorry for his wife, parents, sisters and co-workers. For a long time, they will be asking themselves "What if" and "Why." Your coverage on line has been really respectful.
As the news settled in on me last night, all the old feelings of my previous experience when another friend of mine took his life began resurfacing. It's an odd juxtaposition that I'll be grieving the loss of a friend on the same weekend I'll be celebrating the passing and rebirth of a religious icon. It is my hope that through his death that he is reborn with the peace he was seeking.
Unconditional love is the reason pets..or animals should be revered. Yet in the 25 years I have rescued felines off the streets as a hobby I have been through some very heart-rending situations. For those times when "no reason" was evident for a result, I have always found some comfort in these Rainbow Bridge statements.
I always saw Mr. Winter (& Channel 8) as a helpmate for those unfortunate pets that needed another chance at a rainbow bridge relationship.
You both wrote some awesome pieces in the Sat. papers. HOPEFULLY those of us who care and pause ...will be able to learn and use some new found knowledge from John's sorrow and his/our loss. That seems to be the only thing we can do at this point.
If we are touched by John Winter, it is our role to create hope and solutions where we or someone has none.
I know I should have sent this with the thousands who have entered very important words in his blog. Yet it has taken some thought to go this route. Hopefully you will see the value and share with those who might need to be comforted to begin to understand.
In response to critics of the media coverage, John's reach to his morning/MidDay viewers was overwhelming judging from the 10K indiv. entries on the blog at tbo.com. I think it is warranted, the viewers and his co-workers need the release of the funny video retrospective and most TV stations have produced sidebar stories on the dangers of suicide.
Bottom line, our good friend John Winter is gone -- far too young and in a tragic, violent way. We will forever hold the memories of your precise forecasts, your pranks with the crew and other meterologists behind-the-scenes near and dear to our hearts.
Rest in peace, John. We miss you dearly but are comforted knowing you and your beloved Davis are enjoying walks in the park once again.