Message to former mayor Project Safe: Tragedy led to life-changing program

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The following was written to former Mayor Susan Kluttz by Nicolas Means, a classmate and teammate of Darris Morris, a Catawba College student who was shot to death during an altercation in 2002.

Dear Mayor Kluttz:

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for all that you have done for the city of Salisbury. You have been a great leader for our community and your legacy will continue to live on now that you have “retired” from local politics and have taken your talents to the state level.
There is no way that I could ever thank you enough for starting Project Safe here in Salisbury. I’m sure there are a number of great programs that you are responsible for, but Project Safe is one that is near and dear to my heart.
As you know, the program was started due to the murder of my best friend, Darris Morris, on Jan. 25, 2002. Never in a million years or my darkest nightmares did I think I would witness what I did on that tragic night. The frustration, anger and sadness that I felt and have continued to feel since can sometimes be unbearable. However, when I found out about Project Safe I realized that my friend did not lose his life in vain.
No, I will never see my friend again or hear his voice, but someone else’s life may be saved because of this program. Some gun offenders are products of their environment, and they get caught up in a life that is detrimental to their well being. The Project Safe program gives them an opportunity to right their wrongs and save their lives before they completely ruin them. The program provides options and opportunities that offenders wouldn’t normally have access to. This alone has guided, and will continue to guide, people in the right direction, which will hopefully lead to a lesser amount of guns on the streets.
Not only are you fighting against gun violence but you are giving people a way to turn their lives around, even if they have made a bad decision. It’s easy to sit back, judge people and tell them what they should do; however, that is not the case with Project Safe in Rowan County. Because of you, Salisbury and Rowan County are putting their money where their mouths are.
No words that I could speak to you would begin to describe the gratitude and thankfulness that I have in my heart toward you. The Bible states that all things work together for the good of those that believe in the Lord, and I have never believed that statement more that I do today. Although that is still the worst night of my life, I have grown to understand that a lot of good has come out of it. Not only is Rowan County more focused on gun violence than ever but my friend’s legacy continues to be written and solidified every day.
I appreciate your efforts in this matter and your commitment to our community. Who would have ever thought that the worst night of my life would become one of the most important? It was the night that Darris Morris’ life ended, but it was also the night that Nicolas Means’ life began. I stopped simply existing and starting living. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to be a part of Project Safe and getting our story out.
It can’t save Darris’ life; however, it may save someone else’s.
— Nicolas Means

Project Safe Neighborhoods is part of a nationwide initiative designed to reduce gun violence and gang activity and promote community outreach and intervention programs.