It was Independence Day in 1992 in the nation’s capital city. I had survived my first year after moving halfway across the country the previous summer. My survival was no small feat either! I had been tempted more than once that year to come up with an escape route.
I debated that day about seeing the spectacular fire works show at the National Monument. I had seen such gatherings on television back at home. I knew there would be a tremendous crowd with accompanying long lines of traffic which is a nightmare to one on the spectrum, but this was decades before I knew I was on the spectrum or even what the spectrum was.
I decided against by better judgment to take the risk in order to see the nation’s fireworks in its capitol city and film it all on my video camera. I was doing fine until I got to Potomac Park located across from the Monument. My Chevy Cavalier decided then and there to call it quits. Unknown to me, the battery and alternator passed away together. My Chevy and I were stopping a long line of traffic stacked up as far as the eye could see. I wasn’t worried about them though. I was focused on my dead Chevy.
I don’t know whether the two uniformed police officers on horseback were with the Capitol Hill police or the local D.C. police force, but they were not my knights in shining armor. I was expecting help from them, but their help consisted of telling me how much traffic I had backed up which wasn’t news to me. Well, it wasn’t my idea for my Chevy to have a breakdown. I was feeling close to having one myself.
The officers also told me they tell people every year to stay home and watch it on TV. Maybe they lived in the area all their lives instead of halfway across the country and simply did not understand. They went on their way leaving me behind.
As I was sitting in my car, occasionally looking up at my rear view mirror at the line of drivers who were probably thinking no kind thoughts towards me, I thought to myself, “Lord, if you want to take me now, I wouldn’t mind so much.” I can laugh about that now but it wasn’t funny at the moment.
My knight in shining armor seemingly came out of nowhere. He was an Army officer from Ft. Belvoir which was located just beyond the Virginia side of the Potomac River. He and his teenage daughter were at the park along with their friends. He saw me in distress and came over to help. He directed him and his friends to get my car out of the way of traffic. He invited me to spend the fireworks show with them. I couldn’t turn down the invitation since my Chevy wasn’t going anywhere.
My hero that night told me he and his friends had made it an annual tradition to see the fireworks show at the same spot in the park. They arrive early in the day to claim that spot. I can’t prove this, but I believe it was not a matter of luck that my Chevy died near that spot. The Lord provided my knight in shining armor.
I called Triple A from a phone booth at the park. This was way back when they had such things as booths. They were not coming to help until the following morning. I understood since it would have probably taken them until the wee hours of the morning to get to the park with thousands about to make their way out of the park after the last firework was lit. The officer assured me that he would not leave me. When the show was over, he and his daughter took me home.
As we were heading across the Potomac River back into Virginia, we talked about the news of the day which back then was the Los Angeles riots after four L.A. police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King. He told me when he saw me, it didn’t matter I didn’t have the same color of skin as him. He saw me as a fellow human being who needed a helping hand. He followed the conviction on his heart to be that hand.
I was expecting help from the uniformed officers on horseback, at least, something more than telling me how much traffic was behind me. Instead, it came from someone who wasn’t obligated in any way to help me. I offered him money for helping me, but he didn’t take a cent. He had his reward in his heart.