Cop Finally Gets to Adopt Sole Survivor in Palm Sunday Massacre

palm sunday massacreThirty years ago, the Palm Sunday Massacre terrified a nation and a young girl who lived just a few blocks from where it happened. That girl was me. Ten people were murdered in their home that day in 1984. Eight of them were children. A family was gone. Except for 13-month-old Christina Rivera, the crying baby found covered in blood.

Officer Joanne Jaffe was one of the first on the scene. She was the first to hold Christina, and Jaffe was assigned to watch over the baby through the night at the hospital. A bond was formed and Jaffe wanted to adopt her. Surviving family members ended up taking care of Christina, but the bond between this officer and the baby never broke even as she grew up. And now, all these years later, that bond is stronger than ever. Jaffe was finally able to adopt Christina.

There are photos from that day. Horrible, terrifying photos. In that Liberty Avenue home in Brooklyn, Christina's mother, Carmen Perez, was killed. She was only 20. Also murdered were Christina's half brothers Alberto, 5, and Noel, 3. Several of her cousins were also senselessly slain. But there was one photo of hope. The one of 13-month-old Christina being held by Officer Jaffe.

"I can’t imagine my life without her," Christina told The New York Times, speaking of her life to the media for the first time. "She taught me what it was like to hope and to truly trust; if ever in life I didn’t think things would work out, I could trust her, and I would just put all my trust in her and she would get me through to the other side."

It needs to be noted that during this time, Jaffe became the Police Department’s highest-ranking female chief. And if we were to rank human behavior, I believe Jaffe is among the highest there ever could be as well. In the midst of this unthinkable crime and violence, there was hope and softness.

"I was assigned to her and fell in love with her," Chief Jaffe recalled.  Officer Jaffe became Christina's benefactor, then a surrogate parent. She became a presence in Christina's life. When she turned 14, Christina officially moved in, and last year, Christina, now 31, was adopted by Jaffe.

There were several times over the years that Jaffe tried to adopt Christina, who called Jaffe "mom," but many factors got in the way. When Christina's grandmother passed away -- the woman who took care of her -- she said, "I felt very orphaned, if that makes sense, even though my mom was still my mom and still there for me. It was almost like I wanted to be claimed, like, 'I’m her daughter, I belong to her.'"

Sometimes lives are pushed together through extraordinary circumstances and we cannot deny a beauty, a light, a sign that two people should be together even when there is darkness.

What do you think of this story? Do you recall the Palm Sunday Massacre?


crime, in the news

12 Comments

To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

nonmember avatar Foster

Did I read that right? Does it say she is being adopted NOW and this happened 30 YEARS AGO? How do you adopt a 31 year old? Someone please correct me if I'm wrong

nonmember avatar Dee

Yes. It says she is 31. So what? She may not need officer Jaffe to take care of her anymore but, finally, the woman who took care of her for all these years will be legally recognized as her mother.

Deborah Starrett

You can adopt an adult, it is mostly a formality but in this case it probably gives Christina a sense of being family to the one person that has stood out to her and stood up for her. They said she tried to adopt her but other things would get in the way. Congrats to Mom and daughter on the adoption being finalized. It is about time!!!!

Elaine Cox

formality..social security,pension and such...getting her affairs in orders and making her family

nonmember avatar Foster

Okay,I get it. I just didn't think you could adopt an adult as they were legally allowed to take care of themselves. That's very sweet that they can be legally family now. Congrats to them

April... AprilJune

I was adopted as an adult as well (under far less tragic circumstances). It was a formality but still important to me and the rest of my family. It probably happens more than we think :)

nonmember avatar Michelle

There's many reasons for adult adoption. I'm glad these women are happy.

mylov... myloveismyfaith

I don't know much about adult adoption, but IMO it shows the deepest levels of love and family. At a time when she legally didn't need an adult parent, she still worked towards being adopted by Jaffe. Clearly their love goes beyond and I think it's just wonderful that they have found support in each other.

Mazie... Mazie0723

This article is confusing. Did she adopt her when she was 14 when she moved in with the officer or at 31? Or Maybe my comprehension sucks today.lol

1-10 of 12 comments 12 Last