A View From A Pew


The First Time I Saw My Father Cry

Like many of you there are certain dates in history I will always remember where I was, and what I was doing.


When President Barack Obama was first elected Tuesday, November 4, 2008 I was at the Democratic headquarters on Macon Road. It was located in an office space in the same strip mall as the now empty Kmart store.


On the morning of September 11, 2001 when the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda flew their planes into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center, I was at work at the Ledger Enquirer and watched the towers fall on the television in the cafeteria.


When the space shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986 I was a thirty-year-old Program Operations Director with the North Central YMCA in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My staff and I watched in the lobby as just 73 seconds after liftoff seven crew members including Christa McAuliffe a teacher from New Hampshire and Ronald McNair an African American mission specialist.


I remember my family gathered around our black and white TV in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Wednesday, August 28, 1963 as we watched Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his “I have A Dream” speech.

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963 I was a seven-year-old elementary student living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire when my teacher received word from the principals office and shared the tragic news with us.


It was, however, Thursday April 4, 1968 that will always be a day I will remember. I was twelve years old. It was the first time I ever saw my father cry. Again our family was gathered around our black and white TV watching the nightly news when Walter Cronkite, then anchor of the “CBS Evening News” came on the air with the following report:


“Dr. Martin Luther King, the apostle of non-violence in the civil rights movement, has been shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee,” Cronkite said. “Police have issued an all-points bulletin for a well-dressed, young white man seen running from the scene. Officers also reportedly chased and fired on a radio-equipped car containing two white men.”

“Dr. King was standing on the balcony of a second-floor hotel room tonight when, according to a companion, a shot was fired from across the street. In the friend’s words, the bullet exploded in his face,” Cronkite reported.


As Cronkite finished I heard a sigh and then cries behind me. As I turned around I saw tears streaming from my fathers face and then I began to cry. Not so much for Dr. King but for the pain I felt for my father.


Our family spent the rest of the evening glued to the TV as they replayed Kings final speech that he gave the night before.  Fifty years later I still remember that night as if it were yesterday. I will forever remember seeing my fathers tears and hearing these words:


“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.”


“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land! “


“And so I’m happy, tonight.


I’m not worried about anything.


I’m not fearing any man.


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”