Joe Morrissey loved country music, but his wife, Kay, never paid much attention to it until after he died.
How could the cheery mom of an adorable 5-year-old, who thanked God morning and night for the blessings of a loving husband and a comfortable home, relate to those weepy lyrics about tragedy and heartbreak?
Before April 5, 2010, Kay and Joe couldn’t have been happier. They so adored little Patrick, whom they’d adopted as an infant from South Korea, that they’d playfully fight about who’d get to feed and change him.
Money wasn’t a problem either. Kay, who came to the United States as a child from Peru, has an MBA and is director of operations, finance and human resources for Jewish Family Services of Broward County.
Joe, a cancer researcher with a doctorate from Stanford University and an international reputation, taught pharmacology at Nova Southeastern University. Their combined incomes afforded a $393,000 house in Plantation, ice hockey and kung fu lessons for Patrick, foreign travel, and donations to the Catholic Church.
They were planning to adopt a second Korean baby: a little girl with a cleft palate.
But something unthinkable shattered that blissful life nearly three years ago, and suddenly, those weepy lyrics made perfect sense.
The night of April 5, a homicidal father/son duo broke into the Morrisseys’ home, restrained Joe and Kay with plastic zip ties, then forced them, at gunpoint, to drive to the bank and withdraw $500 from an ATM.
Kay, hysterical, pleaded to take Patrick. But he was the assailants’ trump card. Don’t try anything, the man in the car told Joe and Kay, because someone’s at the house with your son.
On their return, one of the men hacked at Joe with a Bowie knife. Kay, re-restrained, lay next to her son on her bed, listening to her husband beg for his life. Patrick pretended to be asleep, like Daddy told him to do.
“Out of the whole crime, the worst for me to deal with are Joe’s last minutes,’’ she said. “He suffered.’’
The attackers splashed gasoline around the house and set the kitchen alight. After a fire alarm scared them off, Kay sent Patrick, who had not been tied up, for scissors to cut the zip ties, then grabbed him and ran screaming toward a neighbor.
As Patrick scurried across the street, Kay — barefoot, in her pajamas — ran back and pulled Joe’s body from the burning kitchen onto the pool deck.
The ordeal had dragged on for 90 minutes.
Then began what Kay Morrissey calls “the crime after the crime,’’ the emotional, financial and legal consequences that burden victims long after the yellow police tape comes down and leave a law-abiding, middle-class mom wondering what in the world her family did to deserve this.
Now, Kay Morrissey starts every day listening to a country-Western song: Stand, by Rascal Flatts.
You feel like a candle in a hurricane
Just like a picture with a broken frame
Alone and helpless, like you’ve lost your fight
But you’ll be all right, you’ll be all right.
The song has become her anthem.
On your knees you look up
Decide you’ve had enough
You get mad, you get strong
Wipe your hands, shake it off
Then you stand. Then you stand.