One bright morning when I was a 12 year old boy living in Sandy Springs GA, my mother June announced to my younger brother and sister and me that we weren't going to school that day. She told us to dress nice and get in the car. We only found out as we were leaving the house that we were going to march in Martin Luther King's funeral procession.
It was a short quiet drive. I don't care for crowds and I was worried that this was going to be a long hard sermon to listen to, but I knew we were doing the right thing. We had mostly grown up in the poorer parts of various southern towns and we were used to both colors of people sharing the streets, but this was an amazing feeling to be the only people of one color we saw in such a large crowd. I wasn't surprised at how warm and comfortable it felt. And I realized immediately what a good idea Momma had to come there.
The entire walk and service seem like a beautiful, if melancholy dream. Never had we felt such an outpouring of peace and goodwill through such sadness. All of us have shared our memories over the years, many times. The whole event passed like a song, but midway through my younger brother, only 8, began fidgeting, being so short he was staring at people's stomachs and bored. Then slowly and quietly, without a word, a tall strong man standing behind Steve reached down and picked him up over his head and gently placed him on his shoulders so he could see. Steve was quietly mesmerized and still says it was the most amazing experience he ever had to be lifted up over the crowd and to watch the whole panorama from his private box.
It was a small piece of heaven on earth that the reverend brought to all of us there that day. My mother and sister and brother and I all agree that was all of our proudest day. Not for anything we've done to help with King's cause, but what we did for ourselves by being there. It changed us. It was a religious experience.
When I see pictures of the good doctor and his statue on the mall, he is very real to me. He is still alive, I'm sure of it.
And I wouldn't be at all surprised if he came back one bright morning.