Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Atonement 76'

Sometime back in the fall or spring 1976, I was just a boy at Washington Highland Elementary School in Washington, D.C. Well, one morning I was playing with some friends outside on the schoolyard pictured above. I remember that it was in the morning right before the bell. That morning, we laughed and chased each other around the bumpy asphalt we called our playground. Back then, there was no soft foam or sand to play on in my neighborhood in Southeast D.C. There was just asphalt, rocks, and sometimes glass. As you can see, nothing has changed.  While playing “chase” with another child, I accidentally bumped into a little girl and she fell face-down onto the hard asphalt. Initially, she did not make a sound and then she rolled over to her back and let out the most horrific scream. It was so loud that all the children stopped playing to look. I stood there amazed as I watched her older sister pick her up from the ground.

At that moment, I could see that her mouth was busted from the impact of the fall. There were front teeth missing and blood dripping from the mouth mixed with tears and saliva. I was immediately filled with terror and remorse for my carelessness, so I ran over to say that I was sorry for what I had done. The older sister looked at me in a way that I will never forget; her eyes seemed to express both sorrow for her sister and hate for me. Her eyelids squinted and expanded as she looked at me with a tight mouth and growing anger. Now, I know what my mother meant when she would say, “…if looks could kill.” I felt that she wanted to kill me that morning in 1976.

The little girl, with busted, swollen lips lost her front teeth that day; Me? I was made to sit in the classroom for the rest of morning and afternoon recess to think about what I had done. This moment took place over 30 years ago and I’ve never forgotten. Sometimes, I wonder whatever happened to that little girl. If she is still with us and hasn’t fallen as prey to the cruel streets, I pray that God will bless her right now as I write my thoughts. Also, if she and her older sister still remember that remorseful little boy at that moment -- over 30 years ago on the asphalt playground -- I pray that they have forgiven me. Peace~
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