Today, I received the following email from the PTA president:
Some of you may remember that last year around this time a first grader
from, Eric Kavon Johnson, was tragically killed in a pedestrian
accident. In honor of Eric, the Marshall and Johnson families would
like to invite you to a Candle Light Service on Tuesday, October 23, 2007. The time
will be 7:00-8:00pm.
Last year around this time, I was at home on a Saturday and one of the PTA ladies called to ask me to come through on the "sure, happy to help, call me anytime" promise I made at the last meeting. She asks me to deliver a meal to a family whose first-grader was hit and killed by a car a few days earlier, barely a month into the school year. They're poor; they had lived in one of the run-down apartment buildings on the outskirts of our neighborhood, but the mother, unable to bear the sight of the road that had been the last place that her son had seen alive, moved back home with her mother and her remaining 2 children. Another small apartment, another slightly run-down neighborhood, on a cloudy, chilly, Sunday afternoon. The apartment is cramped, but clean and pin-neat. The TV is on, football, but no one's watching...they just need the distraction. They're nice, grateful for the meal and visit, assuring me that they're OK, they're getting along, the other kids (8 and 18 months, a little girl I could eat with a spoon...) are adjusting. But they're broken, the loss is so overwhelming. I sit and chat for a bit; the grandmother tells me that the 8 year old boy has brushed away all attempts to comfort him...he wants only to watch TV and play video games, and he's having a hard time sleeping. The 18 month old has been fussy and clinging. Eric’s grandmother is chatty and confiding. His mother is trying her best, but she’s exhausted and nearly crushed with grief.
The pictures just about did me in. Eric Johnson was a happy first-grade boy, just like my own happy first-grade boy. He liked sports, playing outside, watching cartoons, and Transformers. According to his grandmother, he was the silly one in his family, given to fits of giggles and goofy faces.
I drive on the road where this child died almost daily. It's still dangerous; there are apartment buildings on both sides, and bus stops, and the people who live in the apartments run back and forth frequently to catch their buses. There's always someone honking at me, because I crawl along at 35 (the speed limit). I don't care. I've seen the devastation that carelessness and speed have caused on this road and God help me, I won't ever be the cause of it.
Nothing will bring back a child who’s been taken so unfairly. But I’ll remember Eric’s name and I’ll light a candle for him on October 23.