In memory of assaulted and slain Starbucks barista Whitney Heichel.
TRIGGER WARNING FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE
We’ve never met. I’ve never cleaned your steaming pitchers or took care of that difficult customer for you. You never covered a shift for me. I’ve never restocked your syrups or asked if you had some Advil on hand. We never worked at the same Starbucks, served the same customers, or even lived on the same coast – we’re just two women that have earned a paycheck pouring drinks for a coffee giant – two strangers out of over 170,000 employees countrywide.
Yet, since hearing of your passing, I can’t stop thinking about you. I feel protective of my young ‘sister’ barista brutally murdered, at only 21, and while simply trying to get to work…
In six years as a female barista, I’ve found both opening and closing shifts to be equally dangerous. I’ve always feared the worst. Taking a deep breath before leaving my house for work and feeling a strange comfort surrounded by coworkers, wearing my green apron, and clocking in on the computer every day.
Please know that it’s clear you were dearly loved. On the news, your mother looked as if everything has been taken from her and your husband, of just under two years, spoke of you and said, “ …when you get married, you bet on forever.” His words brought me to tears. Several articles published during those three days while you were missing spoke of a dedicated coworker relentlessly searching for you, calling every hospital, and contacting every friend. I can’t imagine the grief your family, friends, and coworkers are feeling right now and won’t pretend my concern for you could ever compare. This is simply my way of paying my respects to a woman coworker that should have clocked in at 7am but devastatingly never clocked in again.
Your neighbor confessed recently to murdering you after forcing you to do terrible things at gun point. This is the same neighbor for whom you watched his cats and cared for his plants while he and his wife were away. He was a member of the same congregation as you.
Everything about this situation is so distressing and unfair. Why is it that women cannot be left alone? Why is leaving your home for work have to lead to such trauma and pain? Why must sexual and physical violence be the fates of so many? Why must your husband be in mourning, your coworkers plagued with questions about you while grieving, and your mother have to bury her child?
You were being responsible. You were heading to work to make a wage in an effort to sustain yourself. From the sound of things you were very involved in your church, loved by your coworkers, and reliable. You had already, at 21, found deep meaningful love with your husband, Clint. Girl, honestly, you had a lot going for you and every right on earth to be able to see where it all would take you.
This letter is for every woman seen as disposable. This letter is for every woman that’s been lost to violence, for every woman attacked while trying to get to or from their work. This letter is for each woman walking in the dark to a minimum wage job while holding their keys between their fingers, hopefully ready to strike back. This letter is for me, a survivor of too many close calls and too many founded fears.
This letter is a call to end violence against women.
Ultimately, this letter is for you… Whitney,
the girl that should have clocked in at 7.
With love and respect,
Liberte Locke – New York City Starbucks Barista