A tragedy occurred in our neighborhood 22 years ago today that makes me terribly sad every November 3rd. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago in Dolton, IL. My neighbors were not perfect, but it truly was an all-American neighborhood. Every summer night, my Mom, Dad, and brothers would sit in our front yard, and all the neighbors would gather on our front lawn. We would share drinks and snacks. We would laugh. The kids would play games and show off for the adults. We would laugh some more. As the sun would set each evening, I knew even then that this was a golden time-something I should treasure and hold close.
There was a family that lived down the block from us that never came down to sit with the neighbors. There were two boys in the family that occasionally played with two of my brothers. I played with them when I was young, but kept my distance as I grew older and more wrapped up in my own world to care about anyone on the fringes.
One Wednesday night I decided to walk to our youth group Bible study. It was a warm night for October, and our church was just a few blocks away. The images of that night are embedded in my brain–why, I am not sure. Nothing was out of the ordinary. I remember walking by Eddie’s house and seeing him wrestling with his brother and some friends in their front yard. I also remember holding my Bible under my arm and not saying a word or acknowledging them whatsoever as I walked by. No eye contact. No words. A silent cold wind, that’s all.
The next Wednesday, November 3rd, 22 years ago today, was a nice night. I decided to grab my Bible and head to Bible study. The air was different. It was heavy with something I didn’t understand. I sensed something strange was happening. I passed a boy named Mikey’s house and he came out shouting, “Eddie is dead! Eddie is dead!” In the time it took him to say those words, the bottom dropped out of my reality. The golden time was over in a flash. Done. Eddie was dead and I was sure it was my fault. I didn’t say hi. I didn’t acknowledge his existence. I was a cold wind in his life, nothing else.
The event of Eddie’s death scarred me. It was a tragedy of monumental proportions in my 15 year old life that I am not sure I am fully over yet. I understood my own hypocracy as well as man’s depravity on a level I never knew was possible on that November third 22 years ago.
I miss Eddie. I know his brother and Mom miss him too. He was a funny kid. When we were little, he always made me laugh when we played at the park. He was just a child when he died.
November 3rd is a holy day for me. My soul is centered and quiet. I am somber as I remember. I am over the “what-if’s”, but I reflect on the state of my own soul and how I am treating those that are not like me.