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Remembering Dr. King

Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis. I was a sophomore at USC at the time and remember it like it was yesterday.  

Because I wanted to be a teacher, I volunteered as a lunchtime aide at an elementary school a few blocks from campus. Hours before the news broke about Dr. King’s death, I had escorted a rowdy boy into the principal’s office. When I reported for work the next day, that same boy was in the office. When he saw me, he walked up and said, “We’re going to get you today, whitey.”  

I didn’t think much of his threat until I heard students at the nearby junior high school had been rioting earlier in the day. If that wasn’t enough, I was asked to patrol the playground even though all the students were being kept indoors for safety purposes.  

So there I was, a 19-year-old Trojan all alone on an empty playground. I must have walked the perimeter a dozen times that day. To say I was scared is an understatement. I don’t know what I would have done had there been trouble, but I did my job nonetheless. I stayed on as a noon duty aide until June, but I never saw that troubled boy again. I always wondered what I would have said to him if I had.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach