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Gil Collar’s mother speaks out to USA

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N4It has been five months since my son, Gilbert Thomas Collar, a freshman of six weeks, was shot and killed on the campus of the University of South Alabama. 

In ways, it seems like an eternity since I saw his smile and heard his voice...but at other times, it is as if it were only yesterday that he made me laugh with his outlandish, sometimes totally inappropriate humor. 

Truthfully, some days I still hear his voice and turn to look for him. As much as it hurts that we no longer have him physically present with us, we still consider ourselves blessed beyond belief to have had him in our lives for 18 years. 

I am very proud to be his mother, and very proud of the young man he had grown to be.

I am writing this to thank those of you who said a prayer for us, sent us a card, lit a candle, signed a petition, or simply ask "why?" In all the chaos and controversy after Gil was killed, it seems that many have lost sight of the essential truth of what happened. 

On October 6, 2012, a young man with a bright future died. Regardless of your views on how or why, and who or what is to blame for his death, we should all be able to agree that a tragedy occurred that night. 

It could have been another mother's child, but it was my son. My only son. 

So many associated with the university have reached out and shown kindness to us in our grief, and we are forever grateful to you.

Our Gil looked forward to attending USA for many months. He loved the ocean, and wanted to attend there initially because of the location. However, after several visits to the campus, he was drawn to it because of the eager and helpful faculty and staff, and the friendly students, as well as the beautiful campus. 

He told me he felt at home there, and I am comforted to know that he spent the last six weeks of his life in a place he loved. Thank you for welcoming him.

I wish that my son could have had the time to get to know more of his fellow students. He was not the person that you have seen portrayed in the media.  

He was a humble, soft spoken person; he loved his family and spending time with us; he was kind, intelligent, and funny beyond description. He was a mentor to the younger athletes on his wrestling team; they loved him as a brother.  

He was an awesome brother to his sister, Elisabeth, to whom he was very close. 

He was a respectful and loving son, grandson, nephew, cousin and a loyal friend. He saw the good in everyone, and encouraged people to follow their dreams. He was a champion of the underdog and seldom thought of himself first, choosing to put the needs of others before his own. 

No, he was not perfect....but if I could choose from the entire universe the person that I wished to be my son, I would choose him.  Of course, I mourn his death, but I also mourn the loss of the opportunity to see him accomplish the wonderful plans God had for him. He had goals and dreams, and he should have had the opportunity to follow those dreams.

I hope you will allow this mother, whose heart has been broken beyond repair, to offer a few words of advice. Take it as I intend it to be; an attempt to have people learn from what happened to Gil. 

Some of you, like Gil, may have come to the University from a tight-knit small community similar to our beloved Wetumpka, AL, where your friends were those you'd known since pre-school and you seldom saw someone you did not know or could not trust. Things are different away from home. 

You cannot assume that everyone you meet has your best interest at heart. A police officer you see on the street is not the same as the one back home who coached your baseball team for half your life. 

He doesn't know you. Welcome new friends into you lives, but reserve your trust for only those that prove themselves worthy and have passed the test of time. 

Keep old relationships nurtured along with new.  Simply make good choices. Forgive wrongs, but nevertheless work for change when change is needed to correct a wrong. If you find yourself in need of help, seek out those trustworthy friends.  

They will seldom let you down.  Know who you are and what you believe and if you don't yet know seek wise people to advise you. Work toward achieving the plans that God has for you. Do this for yourself, but also for my son, who will not have to opportunity to be a wrestling coach or a History Teacher, or any of the choices he was considering for his life.

For those of you who knew Gil, I hope you think of him each time you see the beauty of the ocean, witness God's power in a beautiful sunset, or hear the sound of a young person's laughter. 

If you knew him you know he loved to make people laugh. Please keep his memory alive in your hearts and learn from him...from his life and from his death.

In closing, I leave you with words to live by from the Book of Matthew, that are also found in the scriptures of almost every religion in existence, which says in part..."in everything, in every circumstance, do to others as you would have them do to you.” I pray daily that all who enter the campus of the University will be blessed, and that they will be safe from harm. 

With gratitude for your kindnesses, I close with one of my son's favorite sayings.


Bonnie Collar

Written by A special to The Vanguard c/o Cassie Fambro from Bonnie Collar

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