L.A.
sight of Rodney King beating    
one year later to the hour    
photo by Sleena MRKN    

 

My Birthday Story

I think it was a Wednesday. I'm not sure. I went grocery shopping. I had invited people over, James, the neighbors. When I came home from the store my whole street was burning. I went upstairs, my roommates and 2 neighbors were standing around the TV which was in the center of the loft, helicopters were flying over the building, the TV said it was a riot but I didn't know what the word riot means. They kept playing that video over and over. The one of the beating. James called. He said you need to get out of there. But I said no this isn't a big deal. I still didn't understand why everyone was upset. So then I took a shower. More and more helicopters were flying over. I started to understand what people were trying to say to me, the meaning of the word riot. My english was way worse then. But I still didn't know how to react. Were we really in danger? Should I go and photograph this? Should I be afraid? My roommates were completely freaking out. There were more helicopters, smoke was all over. The whole building had a weird electric energy. Would people try coming into the building? My favorite roommate Sherry called from her school. She said she wasn't coming home - she was going to Santa Monica and we should all leave and lock up. Alicia left to drive to her parents. I had turned off the TV because it was too much. I couldn't watch that video one more time. James called again and said I should leave now because there was a 6:00 curfew and it was 20 till 6. He said to grab all the groceries and some clothes and to come to his house and celebrate the birthday there. I put everything in my car - a little Honda. I was the last car the police and National Guard let onto the freeway. I was also the only car on the freeway which was weird because the Hollywood Freeway is always full.

I think, looking back on it all, that the drive was the weirdest part. Palm trees, helicopters, smoke, it was like the end of the world. It was only April so 6:00 was just dusk with tons of helicopters filling the horizon. A lonesome feeling. The whole way to James' I felt like a loser. I still felt like I shouldn't have left.

- Suzanna Bierwirth