Orphan Survival Stories Index |
GHOSTS & MONSTERS & JAMES BYRD, JR.
There are days when I get out of bed and I really do not feel like doing much of anything. I certainly do not feel like sitting down and writing a story.
On days like that I generally mope around. I might walk out onto my screened front porch and I just stand there, gazing off into the distance.
Through my nose I take in a deep breath of cool morning air. Then I take a sip of my hot, black coffee. As soon as I do, I automatically reach into my shirt pocket and I take out a cigarette. I do this now without even thinking. I guess a fifty year bad habit takes very little thought. My right hand reaches into my pants pocket and pulls out my zippo lighter. As I light my cigarette, I always see the words written on the lighter's scarred, silver case. "In Memory of James Byrd" reads the inscription.
I never knew James Byrd of Jasper, Texas. Never met him, not even once, and I'm not exactly sure what he even looked like. I didn't even know that he was missing one of his toes. I guess that is why everyone in Jasper called him "Toe".
I do know that when James was killed it hurt me as much as the day President Kennedy died.
When I heard that my President had died something changed in me as an American. I was not exactly sure what it was that I was supposed to be feeling. I was so numb that I could not distinguish how to feel. However, on the day that James Byrd Jr. died, I knew exactly how I should feel. I felt ashamed of myself and I felt ashamed of the human race.
James accepted a ride from three young men. They took him to the edge of town and they tied a rope around his neck. Then they drug him, for more then three miles, tearing his head from his body.
I knew, as a little boy, that I was afraid of the Boogie Man, even ghosts and monsters, things like that. The day even came when I learned that the matrons in the orphanage were something to fear. But there was something deep down inside of me that told me that one day I would leave all of that behind. That one day there would be no more darkness, or monsters, or boogie men or matrons who would beat on me.
But the day that James Byrd Jr. was brutally killed I learned that the boogie man still lives amongst us. I had hoped that the day would never come when I would have to be afraid of my own kind.