Local News Columnist
9:59 PM CDT, April 11, 2012
To think that Wednesday's massive press event in Jacksonville began with a father's plea for justice one month ago in Sanford.
Maybe you can whip city hall after all.
George Zimmerman is now charged with the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin.
But before the case exploded with marches on at least two continents, and before Trayvon became a household name, there was just a mother and a father asking the most fundamental question any grieving parent would ask, "Why did my child have to die?"
At that first press conference, just 11 days after Trayvon died on Feb. 26, the raw emotions of a family that just buried their 17-year-old son began to spill over.
Slowly, with the help of social media and the mainstream kind, more people started asking questions.
What happened? Why did Zimmerman shoot Trayvon? Why isn't anyone being held accountable? What does "stand your ground" mean?
The story gained momentum. Fast. Trayvon's name appeared on Twitter more than a million times by the end of March.
A petition on Change.org calling for the prosecution of Zimmerman gathered 2.2 million signatures as of Wednesday.
And pressure mounted in Seminole County.
Sanford police Chief Bill Lee stepped down. Brevard-Seminole State Attorney Norm Wolfinger gave up the case, and Gov. Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey of Jacksonville.
Big corporations like Coke and McDonald's decided to leave a conservative group of legislators known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, at least in part, because of its support of the "stand your ground" self-defense law that police cited as the reason they couldn't make an arrest.
The case mesmerized a nation. It forced new and old conversations about race in America. It triggered impassioned debates about self-defense. And it set off heated exchanges about the media and the nation's thirst for instant information, even when the facts are still fuzzy.
All of this from a case that might have been just another homicide of some local interest, if only an arrest had been made that chilly and rainy night in February after police found Trayvon's body and Zimmerman nearby, armed with a gun.
In that way, this case is not an anomaly.
History is made of small stories that take on a life of their own.
Caylee Anthony could have been just another missing child, until the public heard about Casey Anthony's bizarre failure to tell anyone that her daughter was gone. Soon, Casey was the sultry party girl and uncaring mother the nation loved to hate.
When 5-year-old Elian Gonzalez was rescued off the coast of Florida in 1999, his story wasn't too unlike stories of other Cuban immigrants who fled the island. But within a month an international custody battle was raging and finally ended the next year when federal agents raided the home where the boy was staying and sent him back to Cuba to be with his father.
Elian became an international symbol.
And let's not forget that a small-time burglary at the Watergate office complex ended with the downfall of a president.
We don't know what Trayvon Martin's story will become or how it will end. We've only now ended the first act.
What we do know is that, like so many other big stories, this one had a modest beginning.
A father who wanted answers for his son.
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