No Happy New Year

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By: Joe Strupp

For Daniel Rosenbaum, New Year’s Day always meant one thing: breakfast with his father, David. The morning after his parents’ annual New Year’s Eve bash, Daniel, 37 ? a photographer for The Washington Times ? would venture to Krupin’s Restaurant in Washington, D.C., where the family would gather with some friends for the first meal of the new year. “That was the tradition,” he says. “I would always meet them.”

Just a week after last year’s gathering, however, the lives of Daniel and his family abruptly changed forever. It was Jan. 6, 2006, when David Rosenbaum, a well-known New York Times reporter who had recently retired, was attacked and beaten just blocks from his northwest Washington home. Less than two days later he died, sparking a criminal investigation that ended with the arrest and conviction of two men and numerous inquiries (mainly by The Washington Post’s Colbert King) that uncovered mistakes by EMT workers, police, and hospital employees.

A year later, the loss of his father stays with the younger Rosenbaum as much as ever. With the sentencing of convicted killers Percy Jordan and Michael Hamlin set for Jan. 12 ? and the first anniversary of David Rosenbaum’s death on Jan. 8 ? Daniel Rosenbaum will have to relive the tragedy once again. “It has been devastating to see the person you love most stolen away with no notice,” says Daniel, who has been at the Washington Times since 1994. “I don’t know how we’ll ever be the same. I don’t know how I’ll ever fully heal.”

Daniel, who has not spoken to a reporter until now about the tragedy, says he has written a three-page victim’s impact statement to be used at the sentencing and also plans to speak before the judge as he hands down the punishment for Jordan and Hamlin. He and his only sister, Dorothy, also filed a $20 million lawsuit against the District of Columbia and Howard University Hospital seeking damages for alleged mistakes made in treating his dad after the attack. “We are just hoping that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he says. “We just want people to be held accountable.”

But even with those legal avenues to pursue, the death of their father will always be with them, Daniel says. “There will never be closure,” says Daniel, who is single with no children. “We will feel better, but we will never feel the same.”

Adding to the family’s devastation was the passing of their mother, Virginia, who in June died of cancer. Although she had been sick for about two years, Daniel says that loss just months after his father’s death was incredibly hard to take.

The only son of David Rosenbaum, Daniel calls him “my hero in a lot of ways.” He says his father did not push him into the news business, saying he got into photography more for the visual aspects than the journalism. But with his father involved in the news world, his own road to newspapers “just sort of made sense. … My dad supported me in everything I ever did. We would get together often, at least once a week and speak many times a week.”

He credits his father with keeping the family close, which made dealing with the losses somewhat more bearable. “We have stuck together and supported each other,” he says. “A lot of that is a tribute to my dad and his emphasis and belief in the importance of our family; he built this thing.”

In recent months, as he and his sister have had to take care of their parents’ affairs and assets, Daniel has taken to reading some of his father’s work to remind him of his life. He cited a story about disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff that David Rosenbaum wrote in 2002 that he recently found online. “I am in awe of how well he wrote,” Daniel says.

But growing up in the Rosenbaum house was about more than newspapers. It was political discussions at the dinner table, as well as his parents’ New Year’s Eve party. Even as a child, he recalls the annual gathering as a special night. “We would be upstairs and always hanging out,” he says. “It was more for the grownups, but it was always something they looked forward to. It was the one party they threw a year.” Now, he admits sadly, New Year’s Eve from now on will be “just one more unfortunate milestone.”

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