Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Community Remembering

Two days ago Harrington was running at the stadium, training for an upcoming meet when he had a heart attack and died on the track as 15 year old boys are not supposed to do.

In the night, 20 minutes after we first heard the news by cell phone, we sat on rented plastic chairs outside his family’s tiny concrete block home in the dark with a hundred other people who had also just heard the news.

A couple cars, motorcycles, but mostly bicycles came and a few went. Slowly, the gathered crowd clogged the rutted dirt road completely.

The breeze was cool, the constant chatter understandably subdued, even as friends laughed and relayed their stories. Having only met Harrington once, I just listened and thought about the family inside. We could hear the mother as she wailed for her only son, the line at the door shifting people into and out of the home, comforting in its multitude.

A few hours later, I returned home, but the friend I went with and others kept their presence with the family until after midnight.

The next day, they gathered again and cheered Harrington on as his body was carried in its coffin one last lap of thousands around the track. One last time they all could be heard chanting his name, driving him on.

At the end, they followed on foot, first to the church, then to the cemetery.

I could analyze the gatherings, so prompt, so intimate as is standard in cultures without reliable mass communication and body preservation technology (the body needs to be seen, the funeral experienced in order to waylay possible suspicions).

But for now, we’ll recognize the more important priority, a community has gathered to mourn that Nicaragua has one less, full of promise.

The friend who trained with Harrington has long insisted to me that the most important element to win a race is heart, Harrington simply had too much.

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