The boys went to bed, and Rampuru tried to wait up for John, but she was exhausted; she worked ten hours a day, seven days on, two off, for the same low salary her husband earned. When she awoke at dawn and John still wasn't back, Rampuru feared that he and his boss had been in a car accident. Not wanting to wake her brother and his wife, she walked a few yards to a nearby shop with a public telephone and dialed her husband's cell phone. A stranger answered. He said he was a detective. Rampuru's heart contracted. She asked where her husband was. The detective said he wanted to tell her in person. "When the policemen came, they were crying," she says. "The detective hugged me and said, 'Accept. He's gone.'" A week later, when Odendaal was released on only $1,000 bail, an angry crowd of 500 protesters briefly stormed through central Sasolburg. Fearing more disturbances, authorities moved the trial to a town a three-hour drive away. Rampuru worried about how she would get there. She was concerned about the boys, especially Isaac, who was growing angry and withdrawn, and fretted over how she would support them. Friends and relatives had their own financial struggles; they could offer a loving presence but little material help. Most of all, she missed John and was tortured by thoughts of his last moments. "Sometimes," she says, "I wondered if maybe when they were having the drink, John said, 'I'm not going to work for you anymore' and Odendaal got mad." She sighs deeply. "But nobody in this world will know what happened. I will know when I meet my husband in heaven someday." Her deep faith and natural optimism were shaken. "I asked God to keep me alive until my boys were finished with school," Rampuru says, "but I felt that my life was over." And then, a letter arrived from overseas. It had taken more than a month to reach her.
I pray you receive this letter. My name is Beverly Powell, and I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. I'm writing to you because I have read a newspaper article regarding your husband's murder. It broke my heart when this happened, and I cried. ... I pray [Odendaal] is served justice in South Africa. God shall surely serve justice to him when he is dead. Here in the United States recently, a black man named James Byrd was also dragged behind a truck to his death. ... I cried my heart out over that death, too. I'm so sorry about your husband. I read in the newspaper that you said you would hate every white person you see. I am a white person. ...I have cried over these crimes, and my prayers are for an end to all racism. I can't even imagine how much pain your family must be going through. I ask you please to know that there are many white people who are not racists and are devastated by these crimes, and all racial hatred. So please can you find it in your heart not to hate us all? I'm sending also this gift of money, which is not much but is from my heart. I am a housecleaner (servant). ... I hope that it is helpful to you and your sons. God be with you.
She sent this reply on October 27, 2000. It read, in part:
The Beloved Beverly:
It is in great grace of God that I received your letter and gift that meant so much to me. ... Your condolences made me feel that I'm not alone. My sons were so happy to receive a letter from the States. It meant so much to them that even though their dad is no longer with them, they are not forgotten. ... Thanks once again. Maybe we will meet sometime, only heaven knows. I will always remember you. May God bless you. If possible may you please send me your picture and your family's. Note: ... I did not say I hated white people, I said I am scared of them. I love you despite the fact that you are white as long as you are human and not racist. Thanks once again. I hope justice shall prevail.
We Hear You!