Every PICTURE tells a story… The Road to the Emmy’s


We love you Justin Carr!!
We got the Emmy for you honey!!! love Mom, Dad and Ray!!

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The first time I saw this catch phase “Every Picture Tells a Story” is when I ventured into an Art Gallery, with this name, on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, CA. I was intrigued by the original art from books that were being displayed. I had just started working at my first job out of college, and to date, my earnings were usually spent on travelling and at Loehmans, one of my favorite shopping spots. However, this was about to change when I spotted a fabulous watercolor image called the Spider Woman by a famous Black Artist named Jerry Pinkney


I just had to have it. It depicted a beautiful black woman surrounded by animals, adorned by a spider web. The colors and the details were incredible. I secured it by putting it on layaway. Subsequently, I had to limit my leisure shopping for clothes because I was anxious to place this art on my wall. Just tonight, it dawned on me that maybe it was Jerry Pinkney’s art that could have inspired Justin (at an early age) to have such a strong affinity to include his heritage in some of his artwork in his later years.

After Justin was born, I noticed how he loved looking at this picture. Often, he would sit on the window seat and call me over to show me new things he discovered in the intricate and details of the design. Subsequently, I purchased many of Jerry’s children books for Justin. They always had a colorful tapestry and an abundance of images of people of color. These books are still on the shelf….

Well, there seems to always be a twist to my thoughts as I try and get up each day. So, in order to recap some of the events of this week that sent my infinite thoughts of Justin either into a downward spiral or an upward lift, I must tell the bad with the good. It is only natural for me to be honest these days.

I get frustrated because I cannot patch this hole in my empty heart. And with this PICTURE of grief, it brings many moments of sadness along with this unimaginable life that Darrell and I have. I know it’s hard to fathom and people cannot often find the words, but sometimes comments and or spotted non verbal communication gestures just set me back.

Picture this…



The truth can be told about how we feel. Quite frankly, it can be summed up into just a few words. It starts with the letter that comes after the letter “E”. It is beyond unimaginable. It is “devastating and profound,” the exact words used in an email by a “use to be” friend (neighbor) whom I have not seen since that dreadful day in 2013. She wrote me on the anniversary of Justin’s passing to basically abandon our friendship “because this loss of Justin was “too profound and devastating for her.”  How about me? How about Darrell? Even though she lives 2 minutes away, she basically wrote that she could not be in our lives anymore, but as a consolation, she would keep good thoughts of Justin in her mind and hopes that Darrell and I will smile every day just with the memories of him.

Can you PICTURE how I reacted to this? I guess she wants to assume that I am just singing this song to keep me occupied because I can’t be sinking in sadness:

“Row, row, row my boat,

Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream. “

Oh so I wish!!!!

Why is it that some people wish that the PICTURES of Justin Carr just cease and go away? Why all of the press? They say that Justin’s Story is old news and that it has been talked about for more than just a few weeks, we need to move on. In the past, and recently, I heard that some people had verbalized that they wished that Darrell and I had stopped showing up to events at school” It was not fair to them! I think some actually believe that we are contagious and that we “bring down the house” when we do show up. They do not want to read another story or see another picture related to that dreadful Carr Family. It’s not like we parked our car on campus and waited for the pity party to begin. We attended with honor the events that we could for Justin. It helped us and the community to get though the shock of this loss. Do you think it was easy going on campus, let alone living w/o him on a daily bases  and not seeing him or bringing him home with us? PICTURE that, I’m sure you can’t imagine.

The villages of people who care and walk with us have tried to encourage us to look at the PICTURES in our life with the positive things that have come out of this tragedy. I try, but I’m not a super woman and it hurts. Hear ye Hear ye, as long as we are living, Justin will live through us. We will show up and stand up for any and everything that our broken hearts can take in honor of Justin. Like my Dad always said, “ Don’t let other people determine how you act”



So with that said, I am now going to reflect back on how CBS’s Justin’s Story (after the initial news frenzy ) came to fruition.   It was on a Friday night in 2012. Justin runs upstairs and shows me a picture from an ad he saw about a backstage tour of the famous “El Capitan theatre. He said ecstatically “Mom, they are going to have a rare tour that will be open to the public. Will you take me? “ I said, ”Sure, when is it?” He said, “Tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m.” I hesitated for a moment, but when I saw the excitement in his eyes, I said, “OK, so go to sleep now so we can get up early and go.” And we did.

When we got into the line of about 100 people, I noticed that Justin was the youngest in the crowd among the enthusiasts with the average age of about 65-70 years old.  This did not bother Justin at all. As we toured the theatre, he marveled at the dressing rooms, the detail in the finishes, the stage, the fly loft, everything. He was in hog heaven. As we proceeded to walk down some stairs, I looked back and a man with a CBS camera crew made a motion to me to come talk to him. I went over to speak with him. He asked if I would be able to stay after the tour for an interview. I said, we could stay but I did not want to be interviewed because, I was only the driver, and it was my son Justin who wanted to come, so he should speak with him.

At the end of the tour, we waited in the lobby and the Show Producer, Raymond Bell, began interviewing Justin. Justin was just a tad bit nervous but confident in his answers about his love of Architecture and the impact of the tour. When the interview was over, Ray asked for the complete spelling of Justin’s name for the record. Then he said “Mom, what is your name?” I said “ Susan Toler Carr”. He paused for a minute looked at me and said, “Is there any relationship to Burl Toler?” I said, “Yes. He was my father.” Ray was so excited. He told me that he grew up in the Bay Area, played football for UCLA and always had the highest respect for my Dad, and he would love to do a Documentary on him. We exchanged contact information.  Subsequently, a few weeks later on a saturday morning,  the El Capitan episode aired on both CBS 2 and KCAL 9 news.


I will always remember that day because my phone started ringing when people saw Justin on TV. It only aired in the morning, and then it did not air the rest of the day or weekend as planned because it was preempted by the sudden death of Whitney Houston….


A few months later, Ray came over to our house with another creative artist and filmmaker, Doug Harris. They had just completed their preliminary interviews with many members of the NFL community including officials, and players to piece together a Documentary about my Father. It was a school night and Justin was tired. I remember him distinctly rolling his eyes at me when I gently asked him if he would talk about Papa to Ray and Doug who had just had a grueling day in the field. It would only be a few minutes I told Justin. He agreed, and gave me and Darrell that look to “Kindly Get lost” so we retreated downstairs to be out of mind and out of site. At the end, all Ray and Doug said to us was “Justin did great!” and they left.

Well, we never saw any part of the interview until after Justin passed away. Doug uploaded it online.


During that dreadful week of planning Justin’s service, my brother Martel was searching the Internet trying to keep up with the media. He said” Did you see the YouTube video of Justin talking about Dad? “ I said “No, and at this juncture I don’t think I can. “ Days passed before I saw it. I’m sure most of you have seen it. When I did watch it, I got goose bumps .The PICTURES of Justin were incredible as he profoundly spoke passionately about the love he had for his Grandfather. But, I could not help but notice that even though Justin spoke lovingly about my Dad, he did not realize that he was also speaking about himself.


Minutes after Justin left this Earth, our phones were ringing off the hook with requests from the media for information and interviews. Thank goodness my band of CIA Agents, including Bill Funderburke, blocked all access and made sure that the correct information about Justin’s Story was accurate. For weeks after, I had TV Stations calling asking if we were ready to talk. We were not. I stalled for months because Darrell and I needed to make sure we had all of our questions answered surrounding this unimaginable loss and that we were of sound mind to talk. Then it dawned on us that we did not want a cavalier or sensationalized segment about Justin. We wanted people to know who Justin really was. So, I contacted Ray Bell. He was the only Producer who had really got a chance to meet Justin. He enjoyed talking to Justin and I watched, as he always seemed to boost Justin up with admiration. I later found out that Ray also knew first hand about what it feels like to loose a son… Need I say any more?

So at the end of Summer 2013 Ray came over with his crew, including the Reporter, Suraya Fadel (who had on turquoise) not knowing what that color meant to us. They spent hours in our home learning more about Justin.  Last Fall on a Monday night, Justin’s Story Aired on CBS 2 News at 11:00 p.m.  It was painful to watch, but beautifully done.

Today, Ray called to tell us that “ Justin’s Story” has been nominated for an Emmy Awards under the Light News Story-Single Report Category for the 66th Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards.


He said regardless if we win, it was picked from thousands of submissions, so it is an honor indeed just to be nominated amongst the talented pool.

Thank you Ray and Suraya for putting many PICTURES together to tell the story of Justin.   You put your heart and soul into this STORY that had to be told.

It is true that “Every Picture Tells A Story” Including the bad with the good. I could not tell this story without mentioning the bad that has come with the good surrounding my life as I know it now.

Because of Ray and Suraya’s diligence  there was even a Part 2 of Justin’s Story where a local high school (Oaks Christian)  started testing athletes and saving lives as a direct result of hearing about the demise of Justin.    I wish we would have known…….This story needs to be told!!!

Oaks Christian School Offers Heart Screenings For Athletes After Swimmer’s Death
The death of a young athlete due to an undetected heart condition is leading to changes that will save lives. Justin Carr, a young student athlete at Harvard-Westlake, died during a swimming workout. His autopsy revealed that he, unknowingly,suffered from cardiomyopathy, which is a weakening of…




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