I Was There When I Heard…

It was Friday and we had just finished 4th period Gym Class.  We were walking to the cafeteria when we ran into Coach Clay.  He was crying.  He looked at us and said “They killed President Kennedy”.  We went on to lunch… nobody really was eating.  November 22, 1963.  This began a series of moments in my life that change you forever.  I can remember exactly where I was when:

April 4, 1968– Martin Luther King, assassinated  – riding in car with Silas King.

June 6, 1968– Bobby Kennedy, assassinated – getting ready to go to work at piston factory.

July 16, 1969– moon landing – sitting in family room in Kansas City.

August 9, 1974– Nixon resigned – at a church camp in Oklahoma.

December 8, 1980– John Lennon, assassinated – working as waiter at Peppermill Steak House in Enid, Oklahoma.

January 28, 1986– Challenger exploded – sitting at my desk at Central Christian Church in Pueblo.

Sept 11, 2001–watching the second plane fly into the tower in NYC with my son Mateo – after a Monday night football Broncos loss to the Giants.

And I am sure there are more.

Today I want to share with you my car ride with Silas King, my first black friend. 

It was a beautiful spring day in Enid and we were headed West up Broadway in my 1964 aqua Chevelle.  I had recently finished pledging Gridiron Club and I was now officially a “Man of Gridiron”.  Silas was a Senior, and the point guard on the basketball team.  He was from Kansas City. He was one of the funniest, kindest guys I had ever known. We were going nowhere, just driving and listening to KOMA on the radio.  This radio station literally filled the airwaves in an eight state area with the most current pop music.  They were playing “My Girl” by the Temptations.   Silas and I were singing, life was good.  Then, “We interrupt this broadcast with the news that Dr.  Martin Luther King has been shot at his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.  He has been taken to a local hospital”.   The space and silence between us was huge.  After a couple of minutes he said, “I need to go back to my room”.   We returned to the dorm, not speaking a word… I had turned off the radio.

That was 50 years ago—1968.  We are still living with the sickness of racism.   In that moment in April, the reality that I was a privileged white kid from Colorado began to sink in. In August of that year the Democratic Convention exposed a deeper brokenness in our land.  I had already lost a friend in Viet Nam (Pat Lucero), and there were more to follow.   Some have called 1968 “one of the most turbulent years of the 20th century”.

I am taking a week off from Lyfting.  However, Silas, who died suddenly a few years ago, has been riding in my memories all week long.

Onward and Upward,


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