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Trayvon surprised his dad in more down-to-earth ways as well. Trayvon loved fishing and especially his community park, where he practically lived from the time he could walk and where he proved to his doubting father who once said Trayvon "ain't gonna make it through the season" because of his slight build that he could not only make it in football but also be his team's most valuable player. He was the family prankster who would "hide in the kitchen and turn the lights out, and then jump out and scare you," Martin recalls. Trayvon "liked to work with his hands and fix things," says Fulton. "He once took a radio apart and put it back together."
But Trayvon's favorite piece of technology was his cell phone, which he was using at the time of his encounter with Zimmerman, according to records and an affidavit from the girlfriend Trayvon was speaking to at the time. The morning after the shooting, with Trayvon missing, his father repeatedly called that phone. But he says it wasn't until a police officer arrived a full day later and "pulled out a picture of a young gentleman dead on the ground" which matched a photo of Trayvon that Martin had taken a few days earlier that he realized the awful truth. "Their only explanation was that there was an altercation," he says. "My son had been shot once in the chest, and that was all the detail they gave me about it."
Martin continues, "They assured me they were going to do a thorough investigation, which to this day they haven't." At that moment, however, "my first priority was to get Trayvon back home. Once we got his body back, I knew at that point that my personal mission had begun, and that mission was to seek justice for my lost friend." Sybrina, meanwhile, was driving in Miami when she was told the news. "I had to pull my car over, and I broke down. I just yelled ... It was just unimaginable for me as a mother that he was not going to be there. I sat on the side of the road for 20 or 30 minutes just to get myself together." After his funeral, at the mausoleum, Trayvon's parents say they were overwhelmed by the steady stream of cars filled with people who were arriving to pay their respects long after the service had ended. "This was not just affecting us," says Martin. "Trayvon had a lot of people in his corner."
And those people, whose numbers have since grown to the millions across the country and around the world, are calling for Zimmerman's arrest and prosecution for what Trayvon's parents call "the murder" of a boy who they say was targeted because of sinister stereotypes about young black men. They have little to say about Zimmerman, whose friends insist is not racist. Zimmerman's defenders say the neighborhood-watch captain, stockier than Trayvon but shorter at 5 ft. 9 in., was injured in the altercation, proof that he was defending himself. "George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose and had an injury to the back of his head. He was attacked by Trayvon Martin on that evening," Craig Sonner, a lawyer counseling Zimmerman, told ABC News on March 25. "This was a case of self-defense."
Martin and Fulton were on the long stretch of a turnpike between Orlando and Miami on March 23 when they heard President Obama's poignant remark about their boy that if he had a son, "he'd look like Trayvon." They say that was when they realized how far-reaching the impact of his controversial death, and their effort to get to the bottom of it, is. "It felt real warm to know our son's name had been mentioned by the President of the United States and all over the nation and the world," Martin says. "His name is ringing all over the country, all over the nation, all over the world." Fulton agrees, saying, "It showed us that even President Obama understands we need justice, that he understands our situation." Adds Martin: "The nation is saying, What if what if this was my son, what would I do?"
Fulton says she perhaps the more important question now is what larger purposes her son's death can serve. One of them, she says, is that "all across America, they're going to take a look at the laws and some of the legislation and how it affects teens ... and how people misuse the system." Specifically, the controversial Florida law known as "stand your ground" that lets anyone, anywhere use deadly force against another person if they feel their lives or safety are in danger a statute that Zimmerman's lawyers may try to invoke. "More importantly," she adds, "I believe this has brought attention to racism across the globe, and I think we are now understanding each other."
Martin agrees, saying, "It's obvious that we can't get Trayvon back. But if there's something we can do to prevent another family from asking the what-if questions, we are going to do it ... Had [Trayvon] been your son, would you fight for your son as we are fighting for our son?" Martin continues, "Trayvon was a lamb God called home, and I decided I wasn't going to let his death go unnoticed, and I honestly believe God had a purpose for Trayvon to use his death to open the eyes of America that people won't let [this kind of tragedy] go unnoticed anymore. Trayvon is looking down on us and wants us to put up a fight." His ex-wife chimes in, saying she is "absolutely sure that he's in heaven with God and he has on a hoodie, he has on a heavenly hoodie. He's looking down and he's proud of his parents right now."
With reporting by Tim Padgett / Sanford