32 Minutes Later

In 32 minutes Rachel Ray can make a meal. In 32 minutes a situation comedy can create, and resolve a problem or make you laugh until you cry. In 32 minutes or less Dominos will deliver a pizza or it’s free. My point being a lot can happen in 32 minutes.

This is what happened in my world in 32 minutes.

On Friday, August 14th, I sent a text to my son at 10:39pm and asked if the football game was over?  At 10:49pm  got the response, “Almost.” At 11:02pm the parent who was picking up my son and his friend sent me a text saying she was on the way to get them. Satisfied all was well, I began to prepare for bed. At 11:11pm I had a call coming in that I almost did not answer, because it was an unfamiliar number. When I answered the official sounding voice on the other end asked if I was Denna XXXX, I automatically held my breath. When the voice identified himself as John Smith with Henry county EMS, a paramedic, and that he was “Working on” my son, time stopped along with my heart.
What? I asked in total disbelief. At that point my room felt like waves in the ocean and I was bobbing like a cork on the waves. Seasickness began to set in. I looked at my bathroom door as it rippled. I needed to get there to hold on. My steps only intensified my bout of sickness.
John said, he’s pretty banged up, his lip is split, he has some scrapes, but he’s ok; but we need you to come to the scene.”
Where is he? I’m on the way, I said.  Who did this to him, I asked? Why did they do this to him? I need to talk to my son!
He would not let me talk to him and only repeated, that he needed me to come to the scene where they were ASAP. But what he did do, was say they jumped my boy for his sneakers.
WHAT? The waves intensified. His shoes?
“Yes, ma’ma.” “How long will it take for you to get here?”

When I hung up the phone I was on autopilot. So many questions, so many visions in my head so much fear, anxiety and uncertainty flowing through me. My hands were shaking as if I had suddenly developed some sort of palsy. My mouth was dry and I can’t remember breathing.  I had to call a friend to me to keep me calm as I travelled. I was still in disbelief. My son was jumped by some boys and he requires medical attention. My God. I’m ready to wake up.
As I’m driving I’m thinking, I need to speak to my son. I need to speak to my son! This can’t be true. I called the friend that was with him.
“Nate, what happened?” Where is Ryan? Are you ok? Long impregnated pause. Hello?
“Yes, ma’am? These boys jumped Ryan because he would not give them his J’s.”
What, I asked again in disbelief. Who was it?
“I don’t know there was about 10 or 15 of them.”
The waves returned and slammed against me with hurricane force. What? What? What did you say? HOW MANY? Oh my GOD!
Where were you? Where is he? Oh my God! Where are they now?
“They ran.” Nate said. He said they didn’t know any of the mob.
Oh my GOD!
On Friday August 14th after a football game while him and his friend were waiting for the friends mom to pick them up, my son was jumped by a mob of boys. It’s believed at the very least it was 10 boys. That kept playing in my head. 10-15 boys jumped my son for his shoes and the paramedics have called me. I don’t remember hanging up with Nate.

When I pulled up there were so many people standing around, 3 police cars and  an ambulance. All I could think is, OMG they are here because something has happened to MY son. I could hear my heart beating in my ears. As I rounded my truck, my eyes immediately found my son. Slow motion set in as I walked towards him. What is he wearing? That’s not what he had on when he left. The closer I got I realized his t-shirt was gone and his white undershirt was blood stained. Oh my God, this is real. My child is hurt. I looked at all the faces turn towards me and watch me as I approached the scene. My child’s head was down, I needed to see his face, his eyes. My heartbeat is now deafening in my ears, I seem to be taking long strides or maybe I’m running, I’m not sure which.  When I reach him, I lift his head to see his face, his eyes. I can always tell by his eyes. Although he quickly darted his eyes away from me, in the 3 seconds we locked, my heart broke. It shattered like glass falling on cement. My chest felt like someone had my lungs in a vise grip. I couldn’t breath.  I knew the paramedics were talking to me but their voices sounded as if I was underwater. They had questions. I had questions.  This is not my life! This can’t be happening right now. My God this can’t be happening right now. I have my child’s blood on my hand because he was jumped by at least 10-15 animals, because they wanted the shoes off of his feet. Wake up! WAKE up!
So many conversations going on. Mine with my son. The paramedics with me. His friends mom talking, other people saying things. I hear them, but the thoughts in my head were, his face is so red. That’s an abrasion on his forehead. My God, look at his mouth. That’s not his mouth. His lips were covered in blood and 3 times their normal size. What is that hanging from his mouth? Dear God that’s the inside of his lip hanging on the outside. What is that on his shoulder? What is that? No Lord, tell me that’s not a shoe print on his shoulder. They stomped his shoulder. That’s a shoe print they stomped his shoulder. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. You have to keep it together. That’s a shoe print on my child’s shoulder. Don’t cry. The waves returned. Not now. Wait where is his shirt? He’s sitting in a bloodied undershirt. They took his shirt as well? What are those red lines all over his neck and chest? Scratches and welts? Yes, those are scratches and welts. It looks like a game of red pick up sticks on his chest. Are those injuries on his arm or blood from his head and mouth? I reach for it to check and he jumps. I cry. But I force the tears and sound down into my throat and they settle there, I can’t swallow it. My throat feels paralyzed. I can’t move the golf ball size glob of tears and wails. Swallow it! Swallow it! I feel the glob move to my chest and sits there like the worst case of heartburn ever. Or maybe that’s what actual heartbreak feels like. I draw him carefully into my chest, and whisper I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. You are going to be ok. I feel a quarter size lump on the side of his head. I have to swallow again. I look down and his left hand is resting on his thigh. And I can see his finger is broken because it’s multidirectional. His pants are still there, no holes, no blood, but wait are those shoe prints. They stomped my child. I have to swallow another glob of tears, wails of pain and disbelief. Then there are his feet only covered by his socks. They really did jump him for his sneakers. Swallow.
Somehow, I managed to hear, someone say, “That man sitting inside stopped them.” I don’t know if that person was speaking to me or someone else. But I quickly turned as asked, who? She pointed him out. He was sitting inside the restaurant looking out of the window at us with his wife and daughters. I reluctantly released my son and went inside to talk to him and thank him.

I can’t even… It’s hard to even replay what he said in my mind to type it. It breaks my heart. Out of the 20-30 people in the restaurant Brooks (I later found out was his name) and his wife, Angela, were the only ones that went to help my child. No one outside did anything to help him. No one inside did anything except watch. Angela said they stood there and pointed and watched as my son was being punched, kicked, and slammed by at least 10 animals. Who the fuck could do that? I would never watch as something like that happen to someone else’s child. I’m so thankful for this man and for him not being afraid act and for surly saving my sons life. He said at the point he got to the door the mob of animals were standing my child up to inflict more punishment. When they saw Brooks coming they ran. As they ran they looked back and laughed. They were LAUGHING! Can you believe that. They were laughing. Thankfully Angela managed to get the license plate of the car they drove  off in. Angela and Brooks helped my son up and into the restaurant and called 911. I’m so thankful and grateful for them. They were his guardian angels that night. Thankful and grateful are such weak words for what I feel for them. They literally saved my child’s life. And they said they would do it again in a heartbeat. They checked on him everyday for over a week. And have done everything they could as far as the criminal case.

They punched my boy. They kicked my boy. They stomped my boy. They punched my boy. They kicked my boy. They stomped my boy. They punched my boy. They kicked my boy. They stomped my boy. They punched my boy. They kicked my boy. They stomped my boy. They punched my boy. They kicked my boy. They stomped my boy. They punched my boy. They slammed my boy. They kicked my boy. They stomped my boy. They punched my boy. They kicked my boy. They slammed my boy. They stomped my boy. They punched my boy. They punched, kicked and stomped my boy for as long as it took you to read, they punched, kicked and stomped my boy. So if you got tired of reading that over and over and over again, just close your eyes and try to imagine how he felt when those words were happening to him. For every 1 punch, kick, and stomp you read he was actually punched, kicked and stomped at least 5 times. Remember there was a mob of at least 10. And they were not taking turns. How do I know how long? I watched the surveillance video with the detective. I had to know. I wish I didn’t know. The waves, the choking globs, the feelings of pain, anger, heartbreak, helplessness, and fear were tangible. That was my child.

I still can’t believe this really happened. And it happened to my family in McDonough Georgia at a Huddle House after a football game. But it did. I know it did because when I look at my son I see the  cast that he must wear for another 4 weeks.

When he asked if he could go to the game my first thought was to say no. He had a good week so how could I say no? I said yes. Maybe if I had just said no.

We have had several ER, urgent care and doctor visits since then. I feared he had some kidney damage because of his low back pain that persisted, thankfully not. His physical scars are healing well. He is in good spirits and has been able to talk about what happened. I actually think he may be better mentally than I am. I’m almost terrified when he’s away from me and my nerves stay on edge until I lay eyes on him.
I shared this with you all for 2 reasons. The first, it’s cathartic for me. Second, at 10:39 pm everything was fine and 32 minutes later…my heart stopped. Actually in less than 32 minutes my son experienced something I have only seen on television or read about in the newspaper. I was aware these things happen but not in McDonough Georgia outside of a bustling Huddle House restaurant, to my child? Well, yes it does and it did.

We black out our profile pictures and hashtag mantras but it’s not until something like this happens to someone you know and love that you really start to grasp the mental and emotional pain and damage that an event like this carries long after the actual event. No my child was not killed by and overzealous rogue cop, thank God, but what happened to him was earth shaking and world changing not only for him, but for me as well as his siblings. When I was turning my bed down he was being beaten. When I was putting on my satin cap, he was being stomped. When I was plugging in my phone he was being kicked. All at the hands of people who look like him. And had it not been for concerned, caring total strangers, who look nothing like him, I could have received a very different phone call. Those that look like him, only looked at him. You have to be more than, hashtags and keyboard activists. It requires actual actions. It takes stopping to talk to our youth whether you know them or not. It takes not being afraid to take a chance. It means if it happened to me it can happen to you. You all know I practice what I preach. I take the time to talk, correct, redirect and impart wisdom. And I know I’m not the only one but we need more people to care and to place value not only on your child but those who share your community. Your village.

I thank God for as bad as it is, it’s not worse. We live in an unpredictable, unforgiving, uncaring world. Take nothing and no one for granted, because 32 minutes later, the waves could start.