Dear Gabby,

I’m so sorry, honey. I’m so sorry you’re gone. I’m so sorry you spent your last days with the man who would murder you. True, nothing is *proven* in a court of law, innocent until proven guilty, whatever. But we all know what happened. We watched the footage. Too many of us know exactly what was going on in that van no matter how hard you tried to play it down and take the blame. They always know how to talk a good game. They put on a show to the world and everyone says, “what a great young man!”

“She must be handful.”

“Y’all are so good together!”

But it’s not like that when you’re alone, is it? As easily as he turned it on for the police, he can switch it back off. No one would believe you if you tried to tell them how crazy it can get. How alone you feel. No you weren’t perfect. You were 22. You weren’t supposed to be perfect or even good at this whole life thing yet. But you weren’t supposed to be a victim either.

I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry you didn’t know that you didn’t need him. That you were so much better than him. He knew. I’m so sorry you never had the chance to learn any better. And you would have. You would have figured out that you deserved so much more. You would have outgrown him. Maybe you already were. Maybe that’s why you’re gone.

I’m so sorry, Gabby.

But we promise you this, your legacy will be bigger and longer than your sweet, short life was. We won’t forget you. And we won’t let them. We will use your story to hold them accountable. All of them. Your tragic tale, and so many others just like it, will be passed down to the next generation of girls. We will teach them the warning signs. We will teach them to stand up and walk away. We will teach them they are worth so much more.

And so are you.

Gabrielle Petito

1999 – 2021

The New York Times, Petito family

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