Lisa Mednick Powell

'fused memoir: King assassination

The Martins ,I was over there across the fence -- it was getting late and I was supposed to be home for 6:00. Daddy was not coming home tonight and my brother went to a basketball game ,so there was no pressure to get back early. Brett Martin and I were playing baseball.I throwing,he batting. We were hot, so we went inside to get some water. Brett’s parents were hovering around the television. The screen door slammed after us. Mr. Martin looked at us and said "Martin Luther King is Dead". FXP I was eight. I was probably watching Gilligan's Island. I have no memory of hearing news of MLK's death, though I'm sure my parents were plenty shaken up. Sounds like a good project. Good luck with it. R. Black My family was gathered in front of the TV (in the manner of all good families in the 1960s) watching _Bewitched_ when the news came. It was a fantasy or dream episode in which Samantha 'fessed up to being a witch and she, Darren, and Tabitha were subsequently interned in a Gitmo-style military camp. The network (ABC?) broke in with a special report (by the end of 1968, I had learned to dread those special reports), announcing Dr. King had been slain in Memphis. My older sister, who had been dividing her attention between _Bewitched_ and a magazine (_Look_, I think), looked up and said simply "This is Armageddon." Nearby DC quickly went up in flames. In the years to come, I would waste far too much time watching reruns of _Bewitched_, but I can't remember ever seeing how that episode ended. Pat Williams I grew up a Diplomatic brat in Bonn, West Germany between 1964 and 1970. I didn’t watch German television news as a kid, because I couldn’t grasp the sophisticated and serious language. Instead, I experienced the era’s historical events through photography’s lens.... ...I remember feeling empty when I saw the now famous shot. Several well-dressed men stand on a balcony. Arms and index fingers extended, they point frantically to the opposite building. Their suit jackets freeze in unbuttoned panic. Dr. Martin Luther King reclines in a pool of blood at their feet. Grainy white curtains across the way part ominously, revealing a pitch-black gash that seethes violence. The sky is a flat emotionless grey of taut, still heat, like the barely contained foreboding just before a thunderstorm explodes. Without color to differentiate one form from the next, the heavens merge with the scene it contains. The spatial compression amplifies the photo’s stifling claustrophobia. That same oppressive shroud hovered above the year’s subsequent tragedies in photo after black, relentless photo. (Maureen Clyne) I remember Dr. King very well, in fact was privileged to hear him give the sermon at Temple Israel in my hometown in Connecticut. I also saw him give speeches and watched news reports about him on TV when I was in high school. I wanted to go to the March on Washington but was underage and not allowed to go. I heard of Dr. King's assassination by word of mouth, since I had just dropped out of college and was living on the streets at the time. Of course I remember immediately seeking out radios and friends (and store windows) with televisions to learn more. I remember the riots that followed, despite Robert Kennedy's speech asking for calmness, which I also remember hearing played over the news. Personally I remember feeling horrified, yet somehow numb and resigned, after the assassination of President Kennedy, which still felt very recent at that time. Then soon after came the death of Robert Kennedy, so of course all three are linked in my emotions and memory, as I'm sure is true for many others. (submitted by Mandy Mercier) From Rob K: I went to my storage space and looked for but could not find the poem I wrote that very day about Dr King's assassination. It was published by our school newspaper. I was in eighth grade in a 99.99% white suburban New Jersey Jr High at the time. The dismal announcement was made over our school PA system. Disingenuously the administration added after announcing the tragic news that we would not have classes the next day. I still hope to this day that that was the reason that Dr Kings death was met with cheers and applause by my fellow students. I can still hear it ringing through those prison hallways today. On the other hand my reaction was more to my classmates' callousness and indifference. I realized then and there that I never could or would be like them. I also remember thinking a few weeks later when Bobby was murdered that there was no going back, that America would never be innocent again. (I guess meaning I would never be innocent again.) Knowing more about Dr King's murder now, I curse the FBI for their complicity. I think the FBI's harassment of Dr King is one of the most shameful aspects of our recent past. Aloha Dear Lisa, When I heard the news, we were in the old Esso service station off Ridge Road in Greenbelt, Maryland (I was eight years old and fascinated with the green dinosaur on the sign). We must have been getting our '57 Chevy repaired, since at that time my father wouldn't buy a new used car until the old one was well past 10 years old. I can picture the cluttered service station office. There was a transistor radio with the news on. There were some crackely words about somebody named King, and my parents' faces suddenly turned ashen. I asked what was wrong, and my father said that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. I'm sure I had no idea who he was, and I probably didn't know what "assassinated" meant -- though I do remember how just 2(?) months later, when Robert Kennedy was killed, the concept seemed terribly familiar to me already. Anyway I'm sure many, many questions followed in that service station office. But I don't remember the answers so much as the looks on my parents' faces as they tried to explain things to me. And what I remember best was the scary feeling of entering into a weird, eerie new world in which great people could be shot dead -- just like that. (I'm looking forward to seeing the compilation of responses...!) Love, Joel I don't remember where I was. I was 9 or 10. It wasn'ty until I moved to the south that I started feeling the power of that event. Civil Rights Leaders like Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Young were known to drink their beers at the same tavern as me. They had known Martin Luther King personally. His legacy is so strong here. (Juliet Charney) Patty Sauer: I was twelve when Martin Luther King was assassinated. The house my family lived in was literally being built around us when I was growing up. Most of the men building it were black. Some of the best brick layers in the area lived in Gum Springs which is only 3 or 4 miles away from where I grew up. Gum Springs is the oldest African American Community in Fairfax County, formally established in 1833. The foreman of my dad’s crew was from Gum Springs and his name was Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams was a quiet extremely disciplined African American who laid brick like no other man. His work was art. He and my dad were very close. Unfortunately for us, Mr. Williams’ crew members weren’t as talented, consistent and/or as trustworthy. Imagine about an acre and a half of land on a dirt road in rural Alexandria in 1968. Then imagine a very lovely german woman attempting to supervise a group of 5 or 6 black men whom may or may not have been drunk at the time all by herself. Even though Mr. Williams was the foreman he could not be there all the time and my father had a 9 to 5 job Monday through Friday! Perhaps Mom and Dad were nervous about the situation but they never spoke of it. If they ever did speak of it, I never heard a thing. Sometimes I would feel a lot of tension, but at that time I had an older sister that wanted to kill me and a younger brother that tortured animals. I was too stressed to know one stress from the other. One thing I do know, no one in my family ever used the "N" word and we were taught to respect all fellow human beings. On the evening it happened, my father was late coming home from work. Mom attempted to hug him but dad turned away. He was crying which caused mommy to cry too. I ran to hug both of them and to bring them together and I felt warm hugs back from them both. I remember thinking why do bad things have to happen before good things happen? Dad didn’t hug me often and someone important dies and he hugs me. It seemed really really sad to me on so many levels. Even though I felt so loved at that second I don’t think I ever cried as hard. When my mother asked me why I was crying I said that’s what life will be all about over and over. She asked me what I meant. I said great people dying. Hi Lis, I was a Copenhagen at that time. I recall many Danish friends stopping by to deliver their expressions of sympathy. The news was a shock but we were 3000 miles away which buffeted the shock. Love Dad hey lisa- nice to hear from you. your request for memories of 4-4-68 really made me think about where i was. but more than that, it reminded me of where i come from, and it's not pretty. i had just turned 10 years old. my family "didn't follow" politics or even current events. this was something that upitty (smart) people did. i wasn't aware of a civil rights movement, let alone a war in southeast asia. in my house it was referred to as " the n----r problem". or sometimes "the hippie problem". i used to hang out in the den and watch t.v. while my mother and stepfather played this board game called "WA-HOO" with their friends. needless to say, there was drinking and loud talking involved. i remember the broadcast being interrupted for the special report that king was dead. i didn't know who he was, but could sense that it was big. so many people in tears. this was obviously a man who was loved and respected by many. i went in the dining room and told the grown-ups what i had just heard and seen on t.v. they hardly looked up from their game and i remember what they each said like it was yesterday. i will not repeat it. this still breaks my heart. this was my family. these were my role models. i was their little kid. fuck. Ralph Adamo: Funny -- I guess it's the 40-year part that got me thinking about this, which I have not on most of the past King assasination anniversaries -- but I was sitting in a room in Loyola's Danna Center, upstairs, part of a small gathering for one of Loyola's 'Consortium' events, featuring a half dozen visiting writers. The writer for the evening was a black man from an island nation, who spoke with a deeply British baratone, and during his remarks, someone (the chair of English I believe) burst into the room, sweating profusely and looking awful, and told us he had very bad news...The program did not continue. We all sat stunned for a long time. The speaker (I'm sorry, can't get his name back, a novelist then in his early 40s) finally said some things, quietly, as if talking to himself. That's about it. My memories of RFK's assasination are actually much more vivid and continuous, if you decide to continue with this line of recollection. I can tell you the whole thing was easily the beginning of the end of my belief in politics and almost in words themselves. (Dr. King stuff was on NBC news just now, and my son, who has been taught about him in 1st grade said hey what's he doing in color. Then later Brian whatshisname the anchor said isn't that something, seeing him in color after all these years of thinking about him in black and white. Notice though, these days nobody stands up and says stuff like that. Nobody talks at all really except for fools, and then the occasional politician.) I was on a vacation with my family in a Corvair station wagon traveling through the South. I remember we'd visited Lookout Mountain, and bought souvenirs, my next eldest brother Jim insisting I get the rebel cap because he got the Union one, and we couldn't have the same one. We continued on to Alabama to visit friends of my parents and it must have happened then, because the trip was cut short and we hurriedly drove back home to Ohio with reports of sniper fire on Interstate overpasses and my souvenir packed away somewhere out of sight. I didn't really like it anyway. ( Mark Patterson)