Nine Minutes

Sophia Esch, Staff Writer

We are all laying against the warm, but uninviting pavement. Our hands behind our back, trying to imagine what it was like for him during those nine minutes, laying there, surrounded by officers, but truly alone. It is a long time to lay on the pavement, but we know we are together, covering the street with a blanket of unity. These nine minutes are the longest we have felt since the second week in March when we were waiting for the bell to ring in Calculus, Art, or Chemistry. Life was very different then. Although the chanting is very loud, it is easy for me to close my eyes, take as deep of a breath as I can (through my cloth mask), and remember.

I find myself indulged in a memory that is jogged by the powerful and fiery chanting that is coming out of our mouths. It was January of 2017, and our country was yet again at peak civil unrest. When my mom had mentioned the prospect of the Women’s’ March in Boston, I was immediately excited, because it was one of my first opportunities to be involved in something big. At the time, I was not fully knowledgeable about politics, but even as a middle schooler, I believed one thing: Trump will ruin America. I was very adamant about this opinion, and still am today, even as we face the second election. I quickly agreed to go, and on the 21st, my mom, younger sister, and my friend Ivy piled into the car with Trader Joes snacks, pink hats, markers, poster board, and the mentality that we (girls) ruled the world. 

The first glimpse of nervous anticipation was on the subway, where there were many other people who were also attending. As I made my sign, I felt safe and welcomed for my first encounter with a united crowd. When we exited the subway, a wave of pink hats and posters crashed over me. I couldn’t believe how many people there were. As a young girl, the actual speeches did not resonate with me very clearly. Instead, what I would never forget was the emotion I felt during that day. I felt empowered and brave, because it seemed like I was really making a change. Being surrounded by so many diverse people in a big city made me realize that I wanted to continue engaging in something bigger than my small hometown could satisfy. On that day, past learned history lessons about social struggles and revolutions made sense for the first time. It was a powerful revelation, because I realized that one day I will be part of history too, and I realized that I didn’t want my kids reading about events that have repeated over and over… and over again.

The nine minutes have now passed by. My classmates, family, and community slowly sit up. As I look around, I feel the same sense of power as I did in Boston. It is then that I realize I can still participate and achieve change in my small town. My perspective has changed since Boston and now, I can acknowledge that the small communities that once seem protected and unafflicted from societal issues of race, injustice, and police brutality, may be the ones that need protest and internal uprising the most.

“Tamir Rice couldn’t play with a toy without being murdered.” 

“George Floyd couldn’t breathe air without being murdered” 

I am listening intently to the roll call of death. Tears well up in everybody’s eyes, and in that moment, I know we are all seeing from different perspectives, but nevertheless, through the eyes of human beings. My heart is filled with great pain and also indignation for the victims and for anybody who has been wronged by a place I was always told was a great melting pot of opportunity.  

As the list goes on, I begin to feel hopeless that change will ever come. I think of an old woman driving by at the beginning of the protest, calling out her car window, “Trump 2020!”  The steely determination in her voice, and her condescending, disdainful facial expression left me chilled and speechless. I don’t understand how she can be filled with such hatred and I catch myself feeling badly for her. I think a person has to be extremely uneducated and closed-minded to be against an issue of basic human rights. I know her hostility will catch up to her, especially when the 2020 election comes around, then she will be lost. This random lady makes me even more aware of the hidden racism in our “welcoming” town that some people can’t see, or just refuse to see. Those who choose to ignore the room for improvement in our town take to Facebook in full Karen mode and condemn the protests occurring in Kennebunk. They say we are only looking to cause more problems, and that our town is not racist (specific encounters dare to disagree). Although people like this get under my skin, I remember that they are the ones behind their screens, while we are actually in the streets. So, I unlock my hands from behind my back and swipe at my tears. This is not going to be an easy fight, but looking around, I know in my heart that what we are doing is making a difference. I am only 16. I can make a difference.  Black lives matter. Black lives matter. My life can’t matter until black lives matter; in Boston, New York, Minneapolis, and in Kennebunk.