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April 13th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

From anger to forgiveness: Man befriends brother's killer

By Rose Arce, CNN

New York (CNN) - The day Anthony Colon heard his older brother had been gunned down in East Harlem, he began struggling with a rage that would last for years.

The anger wore him down. He missed him desperately.

He hated the three men who had fired 13 bullets into his brother who was unarmed.

“Oh, God, it just - it just put so much hate in my life. I hated everybody. I hated everything. It made me to be a person, like a monster,” said Colon, who considered his brother Wilfredo his only stable family.

“I loved him because he always stood up for me from a little kid. He would not even allow me to fight. He would stand up for me, whatever happened, because he always saw that goodness in me.”

But as the years passed the fog of anger began to lift.

He married. Had two children. He welcomed religion into his life.

And, he was overwhelmed by a desire to find reconciliation with his brother’s killer.

“I just wanted it to be OK,” he said.

Then one summer day, a chance encounter while visiting a friend at the Eastern Correctional Facility in Ulster County, New York, changed his life.

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He looked across the room and saw Michael Rowe, one of the men who had murdered his brother.

Rowe saw him too and tried to duck down.

“I was expecting that we would be you know, it would be a fight, some type of physical violent altercation ,” said Rowe.

Rowe recalls feeling remorse and shame, unable to forgive himself for murdering another young man – and afraid of retaliation.

Colon walked straight up to him and said: “Brother, I’ve been praying for you. I forgave you. I’ve been praying I would see you again.”

The meeting would transform both men’s lives.

Rowe had married the same girl he was dating when he went to prison. They were able to have three children together during his imprisonment, and he wanted desperately to parent them even as he served a sentence of 20 years to life.

“I figured I would die in prison. Or at least leave there a very old man with grey hair,” he said.

“I still don’t think that I’ll ever truly be able to forgive myself because of the things that I’ve done. Because I take full responsibility for what I did. And I completely, and as best as anyone could, understand the pain that I have caused.

“I think for me, forgiveness will come in doing good works, trying to help others. But as far as forgiving myself I don’t think I will ever get to that place.”

In prison he was befriended by Julio Medina of Exodus Transitional Community, which prepares inmates for their release.

Rowe studied and soon he got an associate’s degree, then a bachelor’s. As he was studying for his master’s degree in Professional Studies, Colon began visiting him regularly.

CNN Living: A killer in the family

“To have that kind of support from the man whose brother he killed, that is remarkable,” said Medina. “Not only does it lift that cloud of shame that he walks with, but more importantly it allows him to have a second chance with the blessings of the victim's brother.”

The day of his graduation, Colon surprised Rowe by coming to put on his robe. He also came to his parole hearing, where Rowe said this to the board deciding his fate:

“Anthony is my hero. I have two sons, and if my sons grow up to be half the man that Anthony Colon is, I will be an incredibly proud father. And I don’t know if I can sum it up or explain any better than that how I feel about Anthony Colon. He has changed my life.”

Colon believes religion has propelled him to forgive Rowe.

“For some reason I felt that he was dealing with all that he was dealing with. Like condemnation. Self-pity. Just like this hovering darkness that was around. I felt that, when people think that’s strange, but it’s just the part of the nature of a person that’s closely connected to God. There’s a connection with God that can allow you to see past what’s in front of you,” he said.

Rowe was released from prison this week after 20 years, a man who has not seen the world since he was barely grown up.

He showed up at one of his children’s elementary schools with cupcakes and gave her the surprise of her life. He saw the home where he will be living with his wife and three children for the first time. And he went to see Anthony Colon, who he will join at Exodus reaching out to young men at risk.

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“God has a purpose for me. God has a purpose for us,” said Rowe, sitting alongside Colon at the offices of Exodus. “Yes, us,” adds Colon smiling.

Meanwhile, Rowe is adjusting to life on the outside.

He is mystified by cell phones and the gentrification of the neighborhood where he fell into drugs and killed a man.

Exodus is helping him cope with routine life skills that seem overwhelming to him like having the power to make daily decisions over what to eat, when to talk, going outside.

Colon is helping him with that too, so he can see a life beyond prison and they can both put an end to 20 years of pain.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Faith • Spirituality

soundoff (734 Responses)
  1. pintodw

    Great example of redemption and forgiveness only God can give. Bless you both.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Paul

      "only God can give"

      For you maybe. For me, I can forgive – no gods required.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  2. Just Me

    ATHEISTS who Paints all people of a religious group with a broad brush is worse than lack of forgiveness, it aims to convict people with no evidence much like racism. I forgive you though.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Cheddar

      I won't forgive you for your inability to use the reply button, nor for your sloppy grammar.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Bostontola

      I'm glad you added the word "who" to the statement. Did you realize that your previous wording ironically painted with a broad brush?

      April 13, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • kneesus

      Congratulations, you just put another sore on the image of people with faith everywhere.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • kneesus

      Instead of seeing the light in this article you decided to use it as moral high ground to condemn people who don't think the same way you do.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Brian

      Based on the root post, Boston and Cheddar have more than enough reason to address the obvious troll in deserved fashion.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  3. Just Me

    Bostontola – I don't know if you are new to CNN, buddy, but ATHEISTS Paint all people of a religious group with a broad brush is worse than lack of forgiveness, it aims to convict people with no evidence much like racism. I forgive you though.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Cheddar

      whereas you, being a CNN veteran/expert, can't even find the reply button...

      April 13, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  4. Rob G

    Even a bad thought towards one another can influence our being. If we were strong enough to rid ourselves of petty differences and looked for the best in everyone life on earth can be the heaven that most seek.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Brian

      Thank you, Rob.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  5. Chedar

    The impermanence of things. The greatest thing a man can do is forgiveness. Everything has beginning and an end. This man finally realized that hatred will not assure of bringing closure. Nothing is permanent. May all being be free from suffering

    April 13, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Cheddar

      That's ripe and not too smelly.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  6. Just Me

    Bostontola – I don't know if you are new to CNN, buddy, but ATHEISTS Painting all people of a religious group with a broad brush is worse than lack of forgiveness, it aims to convict people with no evidence much like racism. I forgive them though.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Bostontola

      Unfortunately, narrow minded thinking is more common than anyone would like. It is not reserved for people of faith or non-believers.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Curious

      What about people who believe in Mohammed or Buddha or Krishna? Are they incapable of mercy too?

      Just wanted your esteemed opinion on these matters on which you are clearly a world expert.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  7. lpadron

    Better reporting would have told us if Colon was a buddhist, muslim, taoist, hindu, mormon, etc. Nontheless, it's rather obvious what Colon is even if reporters can't bring themselves to write it.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Just Me

      Why because you HATE Christians and can't stand for anyone to embrace it? No wonder you are lost.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Just sayin...

      They could have picked a better body part too. Just sayin...

      April 13, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Garth

      Given their history and the content of their racist owners manual, Christians deserve what they get. They should be thankful it ain't worse; people are too kind to them. Now there's some forgiveness for ya.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Rachel

      Just sayin, what body part did you have in mind? Anthony Kidney does kind of have a ring to it...

      April 13, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • maria

      Colon is a idiot ,someone who befrend the brother's killer is not about forgiveness maybe is about the 15 minutes of fame? did he forgot the pain he cause to his mother? I don't believe the forgiveness baloney 'tooth for tooth is my karma' ! HE WILL NO BE ALIVE AND SMILING IF THAT HAPPENS TO MY BROTHER ....

      April 22, 2013 at 6:15 am |
  8. Lawless4U

    I don't think there was anyone innocent in this whole fiasco.

    The dude ran into his brother's killer while visiting a friend who was in prison? Yup, all kinds of good people.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Bostontola

      Rampant speculation and judgement? Hello...this is a story about forgiveness.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  9. Jc

    I cannot imagine the path that Colon had to go down to get to the point of forgiveness. I'm agnostic, but can see the good in religion in certain instances, like this. I truly hope that the killer uses this opportunity to be a man and do so egging constructive. He's living Colon's brothers life, so he better use it wisely. Much love to the two of those men for being bigger than most. Forgiveness and responsibility are rare indeed.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • kenkatth

      It sickens me to read ignorant comments like yours. According to this theory of forgiveness, Nicole Simpson's entire family should forgive O.J. Simpson, because "it's the right thing to do." This article and everyone who thinks this is cool is an IDIOT. Incidentally the surviving brother also hung around with criminals...so of course a criminal can forgive another criminal!!

      April 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  10. pgwveteran

    hal9001- How incorrect and narrow minded you are. All the deniers love to base in the comment sections with their blah blah blah. May God have mercy on your soul. Maybe on your deathbed you will be enlightened with the truth. God Bless Anthony. I hope that Michael Rowe does not forget to continually seek God for forgiveness and thanks. I could not do what Anthony did. I truly believe I would have been waiting for this guy to get out of prison. This is one of many stories like this that I have read. God does work in mysterious ways.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Garth

      No, god doesn't work at all. It is your brain that is working in mysterious, and wrong, ways. You have assigned god as a cause of something that looks to be entirely human in origin, you stupid, deluded fool.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Arnievet

      We'll forgive you this time, vet for not finding the reply button.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Aaron

      It's OK PG. The fact that many atheists hate religion and religious people for the very qualities they themselves exhibit every day on these forums is just a fact they can't see. They are blinded by their supposed knowledge and pride. I gotta stop reading the comments on these belief blog stories because it's the same thing every time.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • dave

      Garth – of course God doesn't work for you...you don't believe in him and so anything that God does for you, you simply assume it's good luck or bad, depending on your point of view.

      April 15, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  11. dixie

    It seems to me people miss the point of the story. Forgiveness helped both men turn their lives around and maybe they can help others in the same situations. This is a blessing to us all. Our prison system is full enough.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • kenkatth

      Wow....you are smart! Let's have a National Forgiveness Day.,.and everyone bless and forgive O.J. Simpson and all the killers...then set them free. Because then we'll all be "better people", won't we!? p.s. What kind of GARBAGE are churches teaching people anyway!??

      April 15, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  12. budshot

    You don't need religion to act honorably.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Sunny D

      That's true. The only reason it is highlighted in this story is because it was the catalyst for them.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Just Me

      True, but would it matter to any of you atheists if the person decides to embrace religion for their own peace of mind?

      April 13, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Sally

      No, Just Me, adding fairy tales to a good soup doesn't really improve the flavor.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • kenkatth

      It is NOT honorable to forgive a killer. It is stupidity! Can you imagine Nicole Simpson's family forgiving O.J. Simpson? All of you who think there is anything honorable about this man are complete morons. Incidentally, this "hero" who forgave his brother's killer..is involved with other criminals as well.

      April 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
  13. Bostontola

    As an old atheist I can attest to the power of forgiveness. As a young man, I felt I needed vengeance when wronged. It felt good. As I got more mature, the price of vengeance got higher so I just blew it off. There were cases where I forgot about the slights and behaved friendly with the person who screwed me. They were so moved by that, they did everything they could to make amends. The good feelings that came from these situations became a source of energy for me and others around me. Forgive and forget, it works.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Just Me

      Well said, Bostontola. There are times that people will completely forgive and move on when you reach within yourself to forgive others.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  14. Just Me

    Not forgiving others only makes you a prisoner of your own mind and live in misery all the days of your life. Thank God these men decided to release the hate that their mind kept them from moving forward.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Cheddar

      God had nothin to do with it. Give the people the credit for what they did.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Byron

      True. But one should not always think that they must make contact and speak with someone they are trying to forgive. If it comes from within and is sincere, that should suffice. Having said that, I understand different people have different needs to help them know when something is accomplished. Such as grabbing your keys tightly twice when leaving an apt to feel good that you've not locked yourself out, for instance.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Aaron

      Hmmm, well let's see Cheddar, (if that is your real name), since the men in the story decided to give credit to God, who are you to deny? Why are you even here? To spread your hatred of those who believe? I don't hate you for not believing. I'm just saddened that someone who obviously feels that religion is a source of evil in this world would work so hard to tear others down simply for believing in something. Are they hurting you by believing? Are these men in this story an affront to you because they choose to believe in something bigger than themselves? Maybe you should look at yourself and see if the qualities you hate so much in religion aren't actually present in yourself. Pride, judgment, self-righteousness, arrogance? Can you not see? Do you need a mirror?

      April 13, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Terry

      Pathetic non-sequitur there, Aaron. Get a brain and lose the religious nonsense.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Dano

      Aaron, why are you not all there?

      April 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  15. Luciafurr

    Admittedly, a better man than me. I'd still want to cut his throat.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • Sunny D

      Ditto

      April 13, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  16. wellcomeall

    Whether it's 'religion' or just sensible upbringing, we need to listen to this story. Thank you for publishing it, it can change lives.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  17. Tax Damned Churches NOW

    What a steaming load of crap. The same tax-dodging religion whose medæval dogma kept their parents from responsibly using contraception to avoid filling the ghettoes with unwanted, unsupervised, uneducated kids at the least crushing our national economy with welfare burdens and often slaughtering innocents with gun violence gets credit for a happy ending? THAT, my friends, is 2,000 years of shrewd marketing excellence.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • biggles

      Talk to morn, moron

      April 13, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • EstebanHerrera

      Or he could have let this entire thing eat at him forever, killed the man who killed his brother, and then went to jail himself, leaving his children (and the children of the man he killed) angry at the fact neither has a parent to raise them, and they too could fill their lives with anger, hatred, and vengeance, and repeat this cycle.

      Yep, the atheist way works so much better.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Bostontola

      Esteban,
      What is the atheist way? I happen to be an atheist but was unaware of an atheist creed. Painting all people of a group with a broad brush is worse than lack of forgiveness, it aims to convict people with no evidence much like racism. I forgive you though.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Mat

      Shows you havent read the bible. Where in the bible does it say to use contraceptives?

      April 13, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Just Me

      Wow, you sound like an angry atheists....why am I not surprised to see you are one?

      April 13, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Just Me

      Well said, EstebanHerrera!!!

      April 13, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Cheddar

      Wow, Just Me, you sound just like a smug, vindictive, hateful Christian. Why is that not a surprise...

      April 13, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  18. Just Me

    What an inspirational story. Indeed God is amazing and he can help each and every one of us to forgive those who offended us. If Mr.Colon, through the love, mercy, and grace of God, was able to forgive the man who killed his brother, we can do the same when it comes to forgiveness. I am so happy that they are friends and both of these men are moving on. That's the God I serve, a God of RESTORATION!

    April 13, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Ed

      You work at Restoration Hardware? Advertise much?

      April 13, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Just Me

      Oooooh, reality, logic, and reason just few waaaay over your head and too much for your pea brain to grasp.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Ed

      "just few waaaay over your head"

      Write much?

      April 13, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Just Me

      Ed – Try carefully hearing those words with an open mind.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Just Me

      Ed – Let me correct it so your pea brain can fully understand it:

      "just flew waaaay over your head"

      April 13, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Ed

      I knew what you were talking about all along, pea-brain. Your capitalization of the word tickled me. lol.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • kenkatth

      LOL "what an inspiring story" - so now we know that it's ok to go out and KILL...because you'll just be forgiven anyway...and loved for the rest of your life. This article and these religious comments are really disgusting,

      April 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
  19. chrystal

    I am in tears. this is the kind of news we need to hear more of. Love is the saving grace of the human race, not hate or war, love! it is all we need.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Just Me

      Amen!

      April 13, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • yeppers

      Love is great, but I would rather have a 9 mm.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • kenkatth

      Maybe you're in tears because you just found out your I.Q.!! You are in TEARS over someone forgiving a killer?! Where is the incentive for people not to kill in the future?! People like you are even scarier than killers!!

      April 15, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  20. truthbetold

    Anthony Colon has a strength that most of can't even think of. His brother who is heaven with angels, approves an is proud. Love for our fellow man comes in strange ways.

    God bless Anthony Colon for showing love where the average man, including myself, would have nothing but hate and rage!

    April 13, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "truthbetold",but "God", "heaven" and "angels" are all elements of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      April 13, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Just Me

      hal 9001 – I am sorry to see you have been convinced with the darkness of your own mind that there is no God. Mr. Rowe probably thought the same thing when he killed Mr. Colon's brother and look at what God is doing for him.

      Please keep your religion of atheism to yourself. It's full of hate, intolerance, and darkness. It's full of negative and we don't want any part of your religion.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Brian

      @Just Me – you are the intolerant one, claiming to know what atheism is, when it's quite obvious that you don't know.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Just Me

      Brian – I sure can claim with confidence what atheism is and there isn't a day that goes by that I praise God that I am not part of such a hateful group how can't accept the fact that others are not like them and think differently then them. They are the most rejected group in America.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Just Me

      Correction: –who cant' accept the fact--

      April 13, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Brian

      Wow – Just Me, you continue to make a fool of yourself. I challenge that I doubt you even know what atheism is, and wow – you sure cleared that up with "I sure can claim with confidence what atheism is". Brilliant! LOL.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • kenkatth

      hal 9001 is right. You don't have to believe in God to know what is right and wrong. And this article and this "forgiveness" garbage is just disgusting, They are trying to make a "hero" out of this fool for forgiving a KILLER. There are some things in life that are NOT forgivable, and murder is one. My question is this...is this the stupidity that churches are teaching?! You're a hero if you "forgive" anything? Tell that to Nicole Kidman's family....and see if they'll forgive O.J. Simpson! It really amazes me how stupid religious people are!!

      April 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.