Asia’s train finally makes it to the 125th Street train station and the doors open up. People are not waiting for the other people to get off the train first like they’re supposed to, they’re instead pushing onto
the train while the people on the train are pushing and shoving back to get off. This is creating such a dangerously and horrific pushing and shoving that several people fall down. These poor people who fell are now being stepped on and crushed under foot. They scream and holler in desperation, fear, and pain. Asia tries to help a lady up who has fallen right in front of her on the cusp of the train and platform. The woman is screaming at the top of her lungs. Asia does this by holding onto a man who’s on the right side of her. Thank God the man is helping her and not pushing her away. All three of them hold onto each other and manage to get off the train and make it to the platform. There are people crammed all around them. The man says to Asia and the lady she helped, “hold onto me and don’t let go. I’ll get us out of here!” And she and the lady do as he says, and hold onto each other for dear life! The three of them push and shove their way through the mass of people, slowly making their way up the stairs, and finally out of the train station. Asia thanks God for they are strangers who came together to help each other in this desperate time of need. And she knows so many people are doing just the opposite because of fear.
As soon as she thanks the lady and man for their kindness and help and they thank her as well, Asia heads straight for the corner
store. There are so many people on the street that she has to side step and push aside people just to move, let alone walk. She has the straps of her school work bag and pocket book wrapped across her neck and pressed up against the front of her chest and stomach. She makes it to the store and waits on line to get a pack of cigarettes. She desperately needs a cigarette even though she has given them up and stopped smoking years ago. She’s not sure if it is from the stress or fear or both but she buys the cigarettes, takes one out from the pack, lights it up with a match and takes a long, deep drag. At first she savors the taste until she begins to cough and get dizzy. She backs up against a wall so as not to bump into anyone. She also doesn’t want any trouble. And the moment that she does this, someone comes up to her and says, “yo miss can you spare a cigarette?” Asia hands him one, shoves the rest into her purse before he can even say thank you, she forces her way across the street, and begins the walk to her job. She knows she is now two and a half hours late but what the heck, there’s nothing she can do. Asia’s amazed at how many people are on the street, no not just amazed, but flabbergasted. Okay, she’s thinking, it’s 125th Street, and there’s always a lot of people on Lexington Avenue, but this is ridiculous. She has never seen so many people on the street at once before, except maybe for a parade, a jam, a march, or something else similar and along those lines. But this is Wednesday morning and there are throngs of people all over. Some are just standing around, some are scuffling in and out of stores, while others are trying to move and walk. It is a struggle for whatever someone is attempting to do, especially walking. People are moving and walking slowly because there is someone in front of you, someone on the sides of you and someone in back of you. This is a rarity because almost everyone rushes and walks fast in the city. So of course there are many fools who don’t care and are just rudely shoving and pushing people out of their way to move. This is creating many arguments and fights. Asia then thinks that maybe she can drive to work, but when she looks around at the cars she sees that traffic is almost at a standstill. All the different vehicles, cars, trucks,
jeeps, vans, taxis, and buses seem to be just sitting there not moving. Horns are being constantly and loudly honked. Thus driving is not a good option.
There are police officers everywhere. Male and female cops are stationed at the entrance of the train station, in front of stores like McDonalds and Pathmark, on the street corners, and trying to direct traffic. Some law officials are parked in patrol and unmarked cars, police jeeps, vans, and patty wagons. While still others are trying to move people along the streets by waving their hands in certain directions and telling people to keep moving along. Top brass officials must have called every available officer to duty thinks Asia as she looks around at all the different kinds of law enforcement visible. She says a grateful prayer, but this does not relay her fears. She knows better for she has seen too much happen in the blink of an eye in the city in front of officers on duty. She puts nothing past no one, and she takes nothing for granted. She also has an awful feeling about this whole situation. She doesn’t like it and it’s not a good thing. She guesses that if not everyone, then most people are feeling the same way she does.
So she just clutches her bags tightly around her hugging them to her breasts and stomach and shuffles along with the moving throng of people. She makes it to one corner, then another, and another until she is finally one corner away from her school. People are walking against the traffic lights, weaving in and out of cars in the middle of the street for those cars are stationary. She looks at her watch and sees that the time is now ten fourteen. She joins the people slowly making their way around cars and gratefully, finally makes it to her job. There are a multitude of people in front of the school, parents, children, teachers, paraprofessionals, staff of all kinds, and even people who do not even belong there. She doesn’t know if they are waiting to get in or are just standing there. She worms her way to the front doors of the building and some parents spot her. “Ms. King”, shouts one parent, hugging her. “Oh my God. You made it here today?” “Yes”, answers Asia. “I fought my way here. What’s going on? Why are you guys outside”, she
asks the parent. “We were told we had to wait outside until further notice”. It figures, thinks Asia. There are two cops in front of the school entrance. “May I go in?”, asks Asia to one of the cops. “I work here”, she continues. “Do you have any I. D.”?, asks the other officer. “Yes I do sir”, Asia responds and she goes inside her purse and pulls out and gives her drivers’ license to the other police officer. At the same time, one of her co-workers and friend squeezes up. The two of them hug and kiss each other saying,” Oh my goodness, how are you?, you made it?” “I did. I’m doing as well as could be expected considering these circumstances.” Her colleague also takes out her credentials and the two ladies are allowed to enter the building.
It is just as hectic in the school as it is outside. Asia’s principal and asst. principals are standing in the front hallway directing parents and children to certain designated areas. She says good morning and they hastily and exasperatingly reply back. She then makes her way to the main office through the many parents and children who are meandering in the hallways. She realizes that the school did not actually open up to parents and students until not too long ago, and she is glad. This makes her believe that other staff members, not just she herself is late, but they are as well. Another administrator tells her to go to the auditorium. She says “okay”, and proceeds to the auditorium where more chaos awaits her. Well she thinks, at least I made it to work in one piece, and this makes her think of Troy and her sons. And once again she says a silent prayer to herself.
The auditorium is packed with parents and children. Another one of her colleagues and friend, the social worker, is on the stage speaking in a microphone and trying to calm down parents and children. She is saying, “parents please find your child’s class and get your child seated. We can use your help and cooperation. Many of our staff are late. Asia hears the word cooperation and says out loud herself, “yes, we are going to need everyone’s cooperation”, as she walks down the aisle. She says, “thank you and muchas gracias”. She nods and greets parents and continues to thank them in English and in Spanish because many
of her parents only speak Spanish for she works in East Harlem. She then begins bracing herself for a weird and stressful day as a teacher in a school. When the auditorium becomes full and there isn’t any more room for another child, she’s instructed to bring her class up with many other children who are added to her class. For the first time in her teaching career, Asia brings up over forty children to her classroom. Since she teaches middle school, she has children ranging from the sixth grade to the eighth grade. This means she has ages from eleven to sixteen in the same class this day.
Some students are rubbing their eyes from fatigue for they did not either sleep well or not at all. While others are rubbing their eyes from crying for they are frightened and afraid. Asia does not blame them. She is also frightened and afraid. One small and tiny sixth grader named Larelle asks, “Ms. King, what’s going on?”. Asia responds, “well Larelle, this is something I’m going to let all of you guys discuss as soon as we get into the classroom, Okay?” “Okay, miss”, she responds. And some children trudge to the classroom restlessly, while others trudge there quietly, and others trudge there agitatedly. Asia will try to have them do some type of school work, but she knows it’s going to be extremely challenging. But she also knows that they must all first discuss this new curfew law and ordinance. She also thinks that it’s a good idea if administration holds some kind of assembly and bring the children together again in the auditorium. This and her family are on her mind as they enter the classroom, she turns on the lights, instructs the children to please take down all the chairs, and quietly have a seat. Even though some kids try to act up out of fear and just not knowing what to think or do, the majority listen to her and do what was told of them. However, Quarnell and two other boys run to the back of the class knocking down chairs on their way. Asia gives them her mother/teacher look and they say in unison, “we’re sorry Ms. King. We didn’t mean for that to happen”. Asia continues to look at them sternly, but then gives them a big, bright smile that they’re used to from her and says, “okay boys, but just don’t let it happen again”. “We won’t”,they respond respectively. For all the students like and respect Asia who is Ms. King to them. The parents as well as all the staff respect her too, for Asia is a cordial, fair, respectful, caring, concerned, considerate, compassionate, and loving person who puts God first, family second, and friends and associates third. With a knowing, smooth, and calm voice she settles everyone down and first gives a mini lesson about what a curfew is. She dreamed about what she would do with the students on her way to work on the bus. For she knew she would have to talk on and let students talk about this new law and ordinance. As they are discussing the curfew and what’s going to change, an announcement comes on the loud speaker. She quiets everyone down. The principal is saying, “there will only be two lunch sessions. One for grades one to four and another for grades five to eight. Prekindergarten and Kindergarten will eat in their classrooms. We’re asking teachers and students alike to be patient with the schedule due to circumstances beyond our control. It will remain like this until further notice”.
By now it is eleven thirty and the first lunch time is about to begin. It will run from eleven thirty-five to twelve twenty. The second lunch hour is from twelve twenty-five to one twenty. All students will remain indoors. Half will go the gym while half will go to the auditorium for recess. No children will be allowed outside under any conditions unless a parent or guardian comes to the main office and signs the child out. Then and only then, will a child be released from school. The children in her class become restless again and Asia instructs them to either get a book to read or write in their journals in order to keep them busy until their lunch time, which is after the first one. Some children put their heads down on the desks and Asia allows them to because she knows some are having a hard time processing all this new information. Heck, she’s having a hard time processing it and she’s an adult. Her cell phone rings which makes her instinctively jump. She knows she’s not supposed to answer it during class time but these are now different times, so she says, “excuse me boys and girls”, and answers her phone. “Hello”. “Asia, I’ve been trying to reach you
all morning!” She hears her husband’s voice on the other end”. “Hon, I’m sorry but I didn’t hear my phone. I’m alright. I’ll call you back in a little while when I get lunch and can speak”. “Okay”, he responds. And she hangs up the phone.
Asia calls her husband back during her lunchtime and relays all the outrageous details of her commute, and the train and walking to her job horrors. She asks how he and the boys are and he relays his own day’s experiences to her. She’s glad that she always packs and brings her lunch to work with her every day. Especially now because one of her co-workers said it is still crazy like hell out on the streets. There are still masses of people wandering around and this scares her. Thank God she got here to her job safely, but now she has to make it back home safely. And she remembers in full detail what she went through just getting here. The hairs on her arms and the back of her neck stand straight up and she begins feeling that de ja vu feeling again. The rest of the day goes by in a blur of getting the students to do some work, and continuing their discussions about their must dos and don’ts, wants, needs, and fears. The children are dismissed and the teachers are asked to stay for an emergency staff meeting. She and other staff who live and travel far can only stay for some of the meeting because they need to make it home before the curfew. The meeting is short and after it ends, she begins her trek home.