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PoP Reader, Reuben Jackson, Remembers April 4, 1968

by Prince Of Petworth April 3, 2008 at 11:29 pm 36 Comments

“I remember April 4, 1968 as if it were this morning. I was kneeling in the makeshift on-deck circle in the alley behind my parent’s house in Northwest DC. It was opening day for what my friends and I dubbed the ABL- Alley Baseball League. It was a new year, a new spring. But some things hadn’t changed. Like Harold Talley’s fastball. It remained as mysterious as Mona Lisa’s smile.

Bat after bat made contact with the warm spring air. It was the bottom of the 7th, and my team-the 5th Street Maulers- were behind 3-1. But a rally was underway. Big Joe’s line drive eluded the second baseman’s glove for a double. The very powerful Greg Walker was in the batter’s box. The count was 3 balls, no strikes. I tried my best to strike an impassive, Willie Mays-like pose in the on-deck circle, but Diane Washington and her equally beautiful sister were standing to my immediate right. I thought my 12 year old heart would explode.

Just before Harold delivered the fateful pitch, my Mother threw open the backdoor and screamed to no one and everyone in particular, “They’ve shot Martin Luther King in Memphis!” Everything seemed to stop. Baseball. Spring itself. My selfish desires. My Mother remained on the back porch, staring. I placed my bat on the ground. Everyone-fans, players- gathered balls, gloves, jackets, and headed home.

When I got inside, I joined my parents in front of the TV. He rolled his eyes upon hearing that the FBI had conducted an internal investigation, and concluded that they were not involved in what was now an assassination. My Mother began crying.  There were reports of arson and looting in downtown DC, and in several cities across the country.

About an hour later, my Father and I stood on the roof of our house. Looking South, you could see thick, dark smoke through the still bare trees. 14th Street, 7th Street, H Street, Northeast- America itself, was on fire.

Sirens cried all night. My Mom did, too.”

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