Thursday, April 3, 2008
Close to Nowhere
April 4, 1968
I think I was 15 in 1968. Life was good. One of my best friends, Cecilia, had just gotten her driver’s license and her dad drove a big ole black Buick. He also allowed Cecilia to drive the big ole black Buick.
Sometimes, after school, Cecilia and I would get in her dad’s Buick and “cruise” around Memphis. It seems now that she could always think of some errand she needed to run for her mom, dad or even her older sister.
If you’re 15 and your best friend has a driver’s license, you basically have no worries at all. The news certainly doesn’t affect you at all. Not even bad news.
Cecilia and I went to school at Humes High School. That first week of April the news did begin to affect us -- during the garbage riots the principal called us all into the auditorium (the same auditorium where Elvis began his career) and told us to wait there until our parents came for us.
That afternoon, Cecilia and I “borrowed” her dad’s Buick and drove to the edge of downtown Memphis -- just to see what was going on. Sometimes, at 15, you’re kinda stupid.
We saw Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that afternoon. He was being rapidly escorted out of the area, as the riots had become very violent again (did I mention that Cecilia and I were stupid?).
We didn’t have school the next day, which just happened to be April 4. I was at another friend’s house when the news broke that Dr. King had been shot. Sarah’s mother told me to hurry home and stay inside.
When I went in, my mother was watching the news. She was crying. I seldom ever saw my mother cry. She cried when both the Kennedys were shot also.
Friday is the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. I watched his son and daughter on the “Today Show” Monday. The nation lost an important figure April 4. King’s son and daughter lost something much more important. They lost their father.
An Irish rock band, U2, wrote a song about Dr. King. I “borrowed” the lyrics off the Internet.
I thought my mother was silly for crying that day. Forty years later, I know better.
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