While getting my hair done I heard the stylist I’ve gone to for over a decade say, “did you hear about that girl who pushed that old man off a bus?” She was met with surprised questions from the surrounding stylists. “He was the cutest old, white man and this black girl killed him. Some 25-year-old yelling on the bus and this man told her ’you need to respect your elders’, and she pushed him off the bus and he died.” She did a shoving motion with both arms. It was a mortifying story to hear from where I sat under foil wraps. If only the bleach lightening my ends could have lightened the solemn mood. “There’s a video of the whole thing,” she said. “He was so adorable. 74, wearing overalls.” She marched a little where she stood behind the swivel chair. It was so sad. I was so sad. My hair salon is not a place where I feel sad but that day for those few minutes, my heart was a brick.
It happened in Vegas. Does anything good happen in Las Vegas? I haven’t seen the video. I refuse to see it. My mind is graphic enough. I could picture it. The young girl in a rage, the quiet old man, daring to speak up just as he was about to leave. His overalls (whether he wore them or not) and then the fall. Face first on the pavement. I could hear the gasps of those on board. The girl who pushed him with her young son nearby wasn’t yelling anymore. Serge Fournier survived the initial fall but later died as a result of his injuries on April 23rd. His attacker, who witnesses told police, was “yelling and cursing” on the bus was arrested on May 6th and charged with murder.
I’ve been praying since I first heard of the tragedy. Praying for everyone involved. The man, his murderer, the man’s family and the witnesses who were traumatized by seeing an innocent person suffer. Why would I pray for the twenty-five-year-old who is now a murderer? Why not reserve prayers for the one who lost his life and the others who were indirectly victimized? I’ve been praying for all because an incident such as this is much bigger than a senseless act of violence. This incident was rooted in anger, a sin we all succumb to from time to time and some, like myself, have had to battle it more frequently than others. The sin is not anger itself, anger is a feeling like excitement or any other. It’s what we do with our feelings that can result in sin.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but you do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.-James 4:1-2
When I heard about the death of Mr. Fournier, I saw myself falling as limply as he did. My disability affects my balance and I too, like Serge, would feel the need to speak up in the name of respect to someone near me who was blatantly disturbing the peace. I also saw myself as the woman who pushed him. I have been angry. I used to be close friends with rage. I used to be a human tornado of emotion. When I discuss the me I used to be and the natural struggles I’ve vanquished through supernatural resources, anger was my central theme. Anger was my dominant feeling. Anger ran my life. It makes the most sense to say, I wasn’t a person who got angry, I was anger personified. I was the girl who was so controlled by anger it could’ve resulted in what happened between Cain and Abel. Anger is a powerful feeling. It can take over and if we let it, we operate off of unpredictable rage that destroys everything it encounters.
Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.-Proverbs 16:32
I saw myself as the man and I saw myself as his murderer. I also saw myself as those who were traumatized by watching a person kill another person. I heard my own gasp among those in the seats aboard the bus, felt my own eyes widen like those of the driver behind the wheel who likely couldn’t help but stare down the steps at crumpled limbs and blood leaking out onto the concrete. What a shock it is to see the things we are not meant to be. Those on the bus who would not react violently even when provoked. It must have scarred many to see what anger can do. I pray for them, and especially for those who lose their tempers. May they never let their anger fester, never bring it to bed, may they quickly let it go because spouting off about having to wait in line or listening to a child screech in a restaurant is not worth losing personal peace. I am the innocent man who spoke up in the name of respect and physically could not prevent himself from harm. I am the young mother who showed her son what it is to disturb others through cursing and physically harming whoever gets in the way. I am the people stunned by the sins of others, putting their hands covered in blood that is not their own over their mouths, horrified by what has been done. I am the guilty party. I am the murderer. I am Judas.
My greatest sympathies and sincerest prayers for Serge Fournier’s friends and family, may they have peace in the shadows. Prayers for comfort and wisdom for each and every witness. Prayers for the woman who started the day in a rage and ended it in a jail cell. Prayers for her son who is now without a mother. Prayers for every mind who has read and watched the reports, may we not throw our stones. May we only be thankful for the justice that will be served and the wisdom provided by the experiences of others.