assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis. The days between the assassination and the touchdown of the plane on home soil were the most frightening of my life.
A Canadian teenager visiting a friend in Tennessee when King was shot, I was terrified when everything erupted. There were police everywhere we went in Knoxville. There was talk at one point of the commercial airports being closed to facilitate bringing in the National Guard.
Everyone was scared, tense, and highly opinionated about the assassination. The civil rights movement and its detractors were a concrete, in-your-face reality in Tennessee - much different from the television images and conceptual discussions I had experienced at home.
Finally, the day of my departure came and, as the plane took off from Knoxville, I breathed a small sigh of relief - only I still had to get through Atlanta, Washington DC, and Boston before I would be home in Canada.
We cleared Atlanta headed for Washington, one step closer. But on the approach to Washington, the evidence of the riots was only too obvious. Smoke was rising everywhere from all the fires in the city - one source reported over 1000 buildings burned.
Fear is generally not logical, and throughout the stop in Washington, I was convinced that the plane would be taken over and burned, or that we would have to get off (and be stranded) because the airport would be closed.
Neither happened, and as we took off, banking over the city, the magnitude of the fires and their number was even more visible. It seemed impossible, but too true.
I remember trying to calculate when we might be in Canadian airspace after we left Boston, thinking that I would be safe and that nothing could harm me in Canada - the naivete and ignorance of youth!
In a most dramatic way, I learned how people can interpret and think about things so very differentlly. I learned that we are never immune to fear and danger.
Sadly, the the Vietnam War that King was so strongly and unpopularly against, claimed the life of my friend. He left for Vietnam shortly after my visit to Tennessee and never came home.
Every year in April, I remember them both.