I found out about Sammy last Friday. Isaiah and I were doing our running drill to the park. We took turns doing short sprint races to different markers. Friday was our day together. I was half awake, and the grey windy morning didn’t help my dazed condition. I wanted to have fun with Isaiah, but I also wanted a nap.
I saw the flowers from a distance as we got closer to Prospect Park. There was the usual metal blockade at the entrance that was placed to keep cars out of the running and biking loop, but all around it, there were pictures, bouquets, stuffed animals and candles.
Shit, Isaiah is going to ask why they are there, was my first thought. I was more scared by the idea that I have to explain to him that someone died there, then the fact that someone died. As we got closer, I felt a severe reality slap on my face, waking me up from my zombie state.
I was looking at a tragedy.
Sammy Eckstein’s twelve-year-old dimpled face was starring at me with bright beautiful eyes from one of the pictures. I didn’t know what happened to Sammy, but I knew that this beautiful boy was gone way too soon.
“What happened?” Isaiah asked me, watching me examine this urban funeral, and hearing my worried, sad eyes.
“I don’t know, Isaiah.” I usually told him the truth, but that time, I didn’t have it in me. This was too much.
I thought about Sammy all morning. I imagined the pain of his family. I cried. There was something so familiar to me about Sammy’s face. Like, he was a relative, likeI have seen this boy on his scooter in Park Slope. He was just another Park Slope kid, like Isaiah.
The next morning, we went back to the park. This time, there were a few people around the memorial.
“What happened to him?” I said to an older woman, who was reading the little notes that the kids have written and taped all around.
“He was my grandson.” She said, looking up at me for second through her sunglasses, “they don’t know exactly how it happened but he was hit by a van and he died. He lived right there across the street,” she pointed at a building on Prospect Park West.
“Oh no, I am so sorry.” I said, and tears came to my eyes. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to say more. I patted her arm and repeated that I was sorry. So, so sorry.
“He was a good boy,” she said, “you never think this could happen to you,” she said.
“Be very careful,” she turned to Isaiah. “It happened so quickly. You have to be careful.” Her warning filled me with fear and pain. It was one moment that they could never take back, never fix, never rewind.
After that, I had to explain to Isaiah that the boy died. I explained to him how careful we have to be around cars. I explained that we should never even come close to an intersection. I held his little hand and thanked god that he was still alive and I prayed for Sammy. And I wept for his family.