lifootprints04

lifootprints04 - Footprints ALICE LI boy died at my school...

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Footprints ALICE LI A boy died at my school last year. His name was Mark Kenny, and he perished of a sudden cerebral aneurysm early on a September morning. I remember seeing his name on the Austin High School morning news broad- cast when I glanced up from my calculus derivatives; I observed the name, birth date, and death date scrawled across the TV screen. 1989-2006. Mark Kenny was a senior like me, but I had never heard of him until that September morning. It wasn’t difficult, in a senior class of 650 students, to wander through all four years of high school without ever meeting certain people or encountering particular faces. After Mark Kenny’s sudden death, the principal issued condolences to his friends and family and informed the rest of the student body that counselors would be available by appointment if anyone needed therapy during this time of tragedy. A Facebook group was started, entitled “RIP Mark Kenny.” One hundred and fifty-seven members joined, but I didn’t. I never knew the kid. A few months before Mark Kenny’s death I heard a sermon at my church. It was by a guest speaker from a neighboring church. I don’t recall which one exactly, but I guessed he was Baptist because all he talked about was damna- tion. I can still picture him on stage, walking briskly to and fro as he gesticu- lated wildly with his arms, tracing large circles in the air as his words formed a venomous pool around our feet. Everyone was going to hell! Every non- believer was going to roast like Independence Day sausages in the fiery pits of Hades! I cringed in my seat, feeling his bitter words resonate within my head and sink into the recesses of my skull. I was thinking of my mother, a staunch atheist who rebuffed my every attempt at evangelizing with a dismis- sive scoff, telling me that religion was a fad. Now I felt as if the speaker’s words were aimed directly at me, as if he were an archer firing arrows of truth into my bosom, reminding me that my failure to convert my mother would result in her damnation. MERCER STREET - 13
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But then he stopped, his words dropping off suddenly into the silence of the room. “But this is greater than your non-Christian friends or family,” he whispered, breathing heavily from the exertion of his previous condemna- tions. I imagined wisps of smoke rising slowly from his nostrils. His eyes dart- ed erratically around the room, settling on the face of each parishioner who sat, stone-faced, in the pews. The next words that emerged from his mouth were soft, cradled with care, spoken with a whispered hush that made me roll my eyes but stuck like peanut butter to the back of my mind for a long time after: “This is about more than simply saving the people you know. You have to save the strangers too.” I live in a world of strangers. Strangers walk with me through Washington Square Park every morning on my way to class. Strangers stand with me in line to pay a buck seventy-five for that perspiring cup of coffee,
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lifootprints04 - Footprints ALICE LI boy died at my school...

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