Donald V. Watkins
The Legacy of a Mother's Love
By Claire Larson, guest contributor
©Copyrighted and Published on September 22, 2019
Last night, the world in general and women who have been the victim of sexual assault, in particular, lost a huge advocate in the fight to be treated with dignity. Cynthia Rondini was taken from us far too soon by pancreatic cancer.
In August of 2017, Donald Watkins wrote the following to Cynthia Rondini:
This is the most difficult letter I have ever written. I was saddened to learn yesterday that you are battling Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Your husband Mike broke the news to me.
As I understand it, you learned of your diagnosis six weeks after Megan’s February 26, 2016, suicide. My niece and nephew are world-renowned doctors/pioneers in cancer research. Based upon their body of work in this area, I know the road ahead will be a long and difficult one for you and your family.
You have been pursuing criminal justice in Megan’s case from the moment you learned that she was drugged and raped by Terry Jackson “Sweet T” Bunn, Jr. You have been unrelenting in this battle. So was Megan, even when she was alone and in her darkest hour as a rape victim.
Cindy, you do not have to carry on Megan’s fight for justice anymore. There is an army of warriors fighting for Megan now.
I am asking you to leave the battlefield. Focus on preparing your daughter Samantha for her senior year in high school, her college years, and womanhood. Love Samantha as only a mother can do. Hold her closely as often as you can. Let Samantha know that Megan has been an exceptional role model and inspiration for all of us.
Megan’s life was cut short by the collective failures of the individuals who helped Sweet T escape prosecution for her rape. Yet, Megan’s legacy as a champion for justice is alive in the army of committed warriors she has left behind.”
Finally, I do not know if we will ever meet in person. You are in God’s hands now. He is a magnificent God. He has brought us together for a purpose, and I fully understand my purpose in your family's life.
As you rest now, please know that I will fight for Megan with every ounce of strength in my body. I will not disappoint you, or Megan. I will not stop fighting for Megan until we have reached the mountaintop of justice.
May God be with you, always and forever!
Donald V. Watkins”
Cindy, as you leave the battlefield, please rest in eternal peace knowing that we WILL continue your fight. During your lifetime, you made sure the University of Alabama became a safer place for its female students. Through your advocacy and that of Megan’s friend, Madison Bush, the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center was opened and the University agreed to commit $250,000 to the center. They’ve agreed to support it through the building of strong partnerships with the community that will help it succeed. This center will be a haven for our young daughters who have suffered one of the most degrading and soul-stealing crimes that can be perpetrated against a woman. Prior to its opening, survivors of sexual assault were forced to travel to Birmingham for a SANE-certified forensic exam.
Your tireless fight for Megan also forced the University to commit another $150,000 to existing campus programs to prevent sexual assault from happening in the first place and to help its shaken victims when it does. You also made sure your daughter received in death, her B.S. degree from the Honors College that was stolen from her in life. Megan’s name will continue to live on through the scholarship named after her and we will continue the movement both of you started to make sure rape victims are treated with respect and dignity and that perpetrators are not allowed to rape their victims a second time through the press and legal systems.
May God wrap your family in his loving arms and comfort them over the coming days as they process the loss of your earthly life. God bless you, Cynthia. You were the best mother and wife anyone could have hoped for.