June 21, 2001. I remember that date like the back of my hand. It had been a clear, sunny day, and I had spent it like any other ten year old boy; riding my bike, chasing my dog, etcetera, etcetera. I lived in a very rural community; everybody was neighbors, and I mean like the kind you see on TV that really did walk over and ask to borrow sugar. It was towards the end of the day, when all of my friends in the neighborhood had gone inside for the night, that something stopped me. My parents had never seemed to be too strict, but coming inside before dark was one thing that they were very demanding upon. The night had taken a strange turn; around 7:30, when it was usually still light outside, it began to grow dark, and storm clouds had begun to hang ominously over our small town in southern Tennessee. I glanced up at the sky, and a few of my friends began wheeling their bikes inside, taking their younger siblings by the hand. My older brother had already gone inside; at thirteen, he had stopped playing outside with the rest of us as much; not that I exactly minded. Blaze was kind of a bully. I sighed as my friend Erin steeped next to me.
"I think we should get inside," he spoke quietly, as usual. The boy was limited with language. He never had liked to speak much.
As much as I wanted to listen to him, I stayed outside long after he went in. It had begun storming at around 8:37. I don't know what possessed me to stay. It was a strange feeling, one that you only get every so often. I sat on my porch, staring at the dark road, the creek on the other side filling up slowly but steadily with rainwater. I heard my brother call me inside from the second story window of his bedroom, but I stayed put, ignoring him and following my gut feeling.
I heard something like a faint cough coming from a little down the street. At first I thought that it was my imagination; the rain and thunder combined made it hard to hear to begin with. But I soon began to hear crying, like a little kid crying, from a little closer. I stood up, and leaned a little bit off of the porch to try and see if there was anything-- or anyone-- out there on the street.
I thought I saw something move a few hundred feet away from my house, and in the direction of the crying, so I instinctively jumped off the porch and started walking in the direction of the noise. I was a little frightened; being only a ten year old, I wasn't exactly prepared for anything shocking to happen.
After a few minutes of walking, I began to grow a little anxious, so I went to turn back around, but before I did, I saw something that has to this day changed my life and many others' forever.
A very small young girl had collapsed under one of the street lamps in front of me. She had one hand stretched out in front of her, as if trying to reach for me. Her head lifted a little to look up, but immediately fell back to the black top after only a weak glance. I ran quickly over to the tiny figure of the girl and knelt next to her. I was almost frozen in shock from the sight of her. Her blonde hair and the ripped, what seemed to be a child's hospital gown, were caked in blood and dirt, and she was soaked from the rain. A huge gash on her face was bleeding profusely, her arms were wrapped in old, bloodied gauze, and her legs were cut up and bruised, purple and yellow splotches trailing all over her small calves. I cried out for help, without realizing that nobody was around. I had traveled farther than I had thought; I was at the end of my street and scared to death. I was frantic, looking around for sight of anybody. I was almost hopeless until I saw the familiar shape of my father's headlights coming down the road. I stood up and waved my arms above my head to grab his attention, as he finally slowed to a halt and jumped out of the truck, fuming.
"What are you doing out here in this rain?! You could've gotten hit by a car, or slipped into the creek, or--" he stopped when I pointed speechlessly at the girl, afraid of my father's reaction.
His facial expression changed to one that I couldn't recognize as he slowly picked up her limp body. He felt her neck for a pulse and nodded at me to get into the truck. I was shaking uncontrollably and slipped trying to get in, but I managed and buckled myself in as he wrapped the girl in his coat and laid her in his back seat, carefully. I could see that she was still breathing; the rise and fall of her chest was small, and her breath was wheezy. We sped down the road and spun out a little in our driveway as my father leapt out of the truck and carried the girl in, I trailing behind him. My mother turned around with a warm, greeting smile, but it quickly faded as she rushed over to my father, touching the girl's face, taking her from my father as he walked away into his office, where I could hear him mumbling into his phone all night. As my mother tended to the girl, she sent me upstairs to my room, telling me that everything was going to be alright and that I had done the right thing. I fell asleep that night with a heavy heart, somehow afraid for the young girl's future.