Editor’s note: CNN viewer Michael Johnson sent us an i-Report (send yours here) on his account the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Below he describes in detail how he found out: "To go outside and see people crying. It's something about it that I'll never forget." We share his experience here:
I was 11 years old, turning 12 in August, 1968. I was sitting in a soda shop in Baltimore having a cheeseburger and a cherry Coke. The lady serving me was named Miss Mary. She was a beautiful older black woman who everyone in the community loved and respected.
As I was sitting down waiting for my cheeseburger, a gentleman ran into the Reads Drugstore and said, "They done killed the King. The King is dead."
In the beginning, I did not get what he was meaning, and I saw Miss Mary starting to cry… not just tears, but the crying that only an older lady could do... the type that a grandchild of a slave gave, it almost had a musical sound to it, and for the next 40 years I can hear it as clear and as sad as it was then.
I went out into the street and I saw men and woman, grown people, stopping what was going on in there lives and crying. I had seen King five years earlier, maybe six, as he stopped in Baltimore to campaign for Kennedy. But this was a death that took the sound out of the air. You could not hear cars or the sounds of the city…
It was as if the air stopped. And then the wailing began...
In a few days, not long, it burned, the city burned.
Frustration had already made Baltimore a powder keg. Poverty, unemployment, homelessness, discrimination... Maryland was not a friendly place for African Americans. And then Dr. King was killed. What happened next: civil disobedience... and random looting, burning, disorder...
I saw the National Guard come into our community, with fixed bayonets. I saw people place signs on their stores saying SOUL BROTHERS.
I remember two police officers came on the basketball court and kicked the ball into the woods and told us, "Go Pray for your damn KING." I will never forget his eyes and the spit that came out of his mouth when he said it.
My father, who could have passed for white, put a "Soul Brother" sign on the windshield of his Cadillac so he and his car wouldn't be attacked as he drove to work… My mother, who was a nurse, had permission to work past the curfew.
As the curfew came, the calm came. But what those four days did was change my life. It put me on a pathway of finding solutions in my community. It was something I had to do.
Today I am strong, and today I do things to make my world better.
– Michael Johnson, iReporter
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Filed under: Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination
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