It was 1969, the first week in September. It was a weekday; my sister and brother were home but not my Father or oldest brother. I’m certain it was September, because everyone was getting ready for the start of school. It would be my first time going to school and I had mixed feeling about the idea. I really didn’t want to go, but was informed I didn’t have a choice. We had visited the school once already for registration. It was after that, I knew it was going to be an unpleasant activity. My only solace was that I might be wrong. This false hope was bolster by the fact my Sister was excited by the prospect of returning to school.
From the kitchen of our family home in the Bronx, while enjoying my favorite cereal, “Count Chocula,” I had a view through the open porch door of the backyard. The morning sky had turned from bright and sunny to a, dark gray, and for a while the air fell silent, even the birds retreated from song.
We had a dog. He was a collie named Sandy. He looked just like Lassie at least I thought so. Sandy was outside and started barking to come inside. My sister, Jennifer, accommodated him and when the door cracked open, he shot past her, knocking her back on to her heels and into the door. Sandy headed right under the kitchen table. Jennifer regained her footing and staring out the kitchen door for a moment, then turned, and shouted, “Mom, rains coming.” Mom came in from another room, looked out the kitchen window and said, “A storms coming, we got get stuff put away.”
With that, “we,” my sister and brother, called us to action, as I was considered the baby. I was only required not to get in the way, but that didn’t stop Sandy and me from following them outside into the yard and watching all the action. Mom directed
Johnny, tie the garbage pails up, and make sure the lids are on tight… Jennifer, get the cloths off the line.
I stood on the porch and watched the hasty work. For some reason, when I stood on the porch I imagined it to be the bridge of a sea ship. From this lofty perspective, it was only a few feet higher, the whole yard was visible. Mom was tying up the tomato plants when the first bright flash appeared in the sky. About four-seconds later, a loud, sharp crack was heard, followed by a long low rumble. I was both frightened and excited at the same time. With the yard tasks completed, my brother and sister were reassigned to window closing duty. I remain outside with Sandy.
A moment or two later, and again, three or more times, a bright flash, followed by a crack and boom. The only difference was the gap between the light and sound was less each time. The air filled with an odor that I now know to be Ozone. The silence between thunderclaps was replaced by the rustling of the trees. The wind now blew the trees with the conviction to break them, but instead they sacrificed their leaves to the wind.
The air seemed to be charged with energy, so was I or perhaps it was the ozone. I ran around the yard in a frantic frenzy, with my arms out stretched like wings, while being pursued by my dog who was trying to shepherd me back into the porch. I imagined,
This is what it must feel like to the be a bird flying.
The dog obviously had better sense… Nevertheless, I continued in my merriment, even as the first sheets of rain came.
It wasn’t until a loud clap of thunder struck so close that I felt it in the pit of my belly, did I run as fast as I could into the kitchen, closing the door and locking it behind me. I joined Sandy beneath the kitchen table. We sat there together in the darken kitchen. This was the last time I would enjoy the freedom of just being an innocent child. Going to school, ripped that away. I learned the true monsters were not under my bed or laying wait in the darkness, but were the other children. The beasts, from a distance looked like me, but within earshot or arms reach were hateful, mean monsters.