I Will Always Remember Todd Brown
Ten years ago to this day, a classmate of mine, Todd Brown, was the victim of an act of senseless violence during the middle of a school day at Discovery Middle School.
He was only fourteen years old.
This is what I remember of that tragic day and of him.
I remember going to school like it was any other day.
I remember going through classes, waiting for the bell to ring, which signaled the end of one block and the beginning of another.
I remember walking down the main hall, straight towards the band room, where I would take a left at the main junction.
I remember my classmates and peers catching up between classes. Telling each other jokes. Sharing stories. Gossiping. The things that thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen-year-olds do.
I remember turning the corner to head towards my English class. Last class of the day.
I remember hearing a pop. I thought it was just a balloon popping.
It was a gunshot.
I remember the screams. I remember people running.
I remember grabbing a close friend of mine who was walking the opposite way (towards the shooting) and running into the nearest room.
I remember sitting in absolute silence, wondering with fear of what was going on.
I remember hearing others who had cellphone reception sending and receiving text messages, trying to get the latest news about what had just occurred.
I remember the whispers as someone said, "Todd Brown was shot."
I remember the silence that followed after. What I thought was minutes had turned into hours.
I remember the police officers knocking on our door, telling us to come out so we could move to a more secure room.
I remember one of my classmates, a girl, reuniting with her boyfriend (at the time). They both sobbed as they held each other in their arms.
I remember the police officers asking if they could question her since she witnessed the whole tragedy up close.
I remember waiting for a while longer before we were transferred to our school's cafeteria to be reunited with our parents, or sent home on buses like any other school day.
I remember seeing a TV that was turned on with the latest news of the incident.
Todd Brown was in the hospital fighting for his life. He had been shot once int the back of the head.
That's when I lost it.
Eyes became blurry. Nose started running.
I remember my friend Rachel holding me in her arms as I sobbed.
I remember getting on the bus to go home. My sister was there in the back, waiting for me. We held each other and cried on the way home.
I remember coming home and running to my mom, crying in her arms as she held me.
I remember asking her, "If a good person like Todd dies, what happens to the rest of us?"
Mom held me tighter. I don't remember much after that.
I remember school the next day. School administrators made guidance counselors available to talk about the trauma of the incident.
I remember it snowed. My classmates and I played in the snow, screaming with joy and laughter as we pelt one another with crudely made snowballs.
That day was a lot of fun.
I remember the shooter. We weren't close friends by any means, but we had sat at the same lunch table from time to time.
Nothing from my conversations with him and others he associated with gave off the hint that he could be capable of murdering another classmate in cold-blood.
I talked with him and others about typical stuff middle school boys would talk about: sports, classes, video games, TV shows, and girls.
I remember his name. I remember the punishment the law laid down upon him years later.
But most of all, I remember Todd. I remember seeing him in the hallways. His relaxed demeanor. His gentle soul.
One time during my bus ride to school, I was getting picked on by my peers (a common occurrence in those days). The bus took an alternate route due to a shortage of drivers to pick up more students than usual.
One of those stops is where Todd got on. He sat close to my tormentors and me. He saw what was going on.
He said, "Man, leave him alone." And that was it. My bullies stopped. He looked at me and smiled.
I will always remember his smile. We weren't close friends by any means, but the fact he would do that for someone he doesn't even know spoke volumes to his character.
Which makes his absence all the more painful.
I remember him not because he is gone, but because he was here and he meant something to all of us at Discovery. He was a friend to many, a brother to a few, and a son to his mother.
The last time I spoke about what happened, I posted this on Facebook exactly three years after he passed:
I remember dedicating my freshman season of Track & Field to Todd.
I remember running really hard and winning that 400m Junior Varsity Championship race for him.
I remember giving this medal to my guidance counselor, who gave it to his younger brother.
Even though I've hung up my spikes for good, you will always live on in my writing.
I will always remember you, Todd Brown.