April 4, 1968 was a clear blue sky day in Chicago, and I left my friends’ apartment in the south Chicago neighborhood of Woodlawn to visit my grandparents. They lived on the north shore of Lake Michigan, and I walked to the El stop and took the train to their apartment. I hadn’t seen them since the fall of 1965 when I had stopped on my way to college, and we had a wonderful time catching up with one another. My grandfather showed me the flowers he had had someone plant at the base of their high rise. That way, he said, your grandmother can see them from the window. While it was officially called “The Old Peoples’ Home,” their apartment was comfortable and full of old furniture I remembered from their Buffalo home.
I left there and took the El back to my friends’ house late in the afternoon. When I got off the train to walk to the apartment, something seemed off. There were groups of young black men standing on street corners, and no one else was outside. I skirted the men and arrived at the apartment. When I walked in I was greeted with hugs and someone saying, “Thank God you are all right.”
They had heard on the radio–the apartment had no television–that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot in Memphis. “Disturbances” were already beginning in Chicago, and they were concerned about me. We gathered around the radio and listened until we heard that he had died. Deeply shaken, we shared memories of the murder of President Kennedy when we were in high school. We wondered what this murder would mean for the country. What would it mean for Chicago? What would it mean for us?