I think it was February 2001. It must have been, because that’s the anniversary month for one of the most terrible shootings of my lifetime to take place in New York City.
As an aspiring and naïve freelance journalist, in between waitering gigs, I decided the anniversary of such a terrible event warranted my presence and some first-hand revisiting. I had never really been to the Bronx, not that I could remember anyway, and I was eager to see the spot, observe the people, smell the air, learn what I could learn; about what had changed since Amadou Diallo was shot 41 one times by police officers.
Somebody rode part of the way with me, but eventually I was on my own and further up the subway line than ever before. I got out and followed my little hand scribbled map that would guide me to the street, to his home. I pictured people standing around. Maybe praying. Maybe a bunch of flowers or statues of saints or something. I wondered if the street would be closed off, maybe because of some big rememberence vigil. I honestly didn’t even know if I had the right day, my only thought was to see what I could see, and share it with those that had chosen to forget the sadness and the pain.
Of course, as usual in life, nothing was as I’d imagined. Nothing exciting happened. No exciting feeling came over me. The air on Wheeler Ave didn’t feel any more or less desperate than the rest of the Bronx. No candle light vigil. No police blockade. Nuthin! A second thought, there may have been some dried out flowers and almost extinguished candles, but nothing that stands out in my memory.
I walked around the block a few times and grew increasingly tired. Heading back to the subway, I glanced one more time towards the house, and pictured that young man standing there. Those final moments. The shots.
I never wrote a single word about it. I think I told a few people the story, but being so uneventful, even the story faded from my story telling.
Why mention it? Obviously with the shooting of Sean Bell, 50 times- who doesn’t think back to it? And the fact that even back in 2001, there wasn’t so much remembering, not that I saw.. maybe that says something. Not much seemed to have changed on Wheeler Ave back then, just like nothing seems to have changed when a young man, the night before his wedding, gets 50 shots fired at him by law enforcement professionals.