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Dreams and Dreamers: A Springtime Message

I REMEMBER the night Martin Luther King was shot. I was visiting Baltimore, my former hometown. After dinner, we were on our way back to the hotel where we were staying. Suddenly the night was filled with the sound of sirens, and police cars, four abreast, sped past, rushing into the center of town.

When we arrived at our hotel, we heard the news on TV, repeating over and over: ``Martin Luther King has been slain in Memphis, Tenn. Martin Luther King has been shot.'' It was April 4, 1968.

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When we looked out the window of our 8th-floor room, we saw what looked like a city aflame. Anger and anguish in the black community touched off fires. Rioting and looting began. The city seemed about to erupt, and what was happening in Baltimore was also happening in other major American cities.

During the night, we heard the sound of marching feet and realized that the National Guard had been called out. They were drilling almost under our window. The next morning the Guard took over the hotel. Breakfast was served Army style; then the hotel was closed to guests and the city was put under curfew.

We left and went to another town to visit. Nearly a week later, some order had been restored in Baltimore, and we were allowed to return to our hotel for the few days remaining before we had to return to our home in Florida.

It was Good Friday, and I decided to walk downtown. A jeep loaded with soldiers passed by, getting ready to leave town. I stopped and stared. As I stood there, I noticed a black woman with the same look of sorrow on her face that was evidently on mine.

We stood there for a moment looking deeply into each other's eyes. There were no words spoken, just a mental hand clasp, a meeting of mutual respect, a shared sadness. Then we walked on.

This was spring - a time of renewal, love, and warmth. The tulips by the city hall were in full bloom; the forsythia was in its golden glory. But the hate that could kill a man seemed like a cold winter, invading the promise of spring. Hold back, you trees with your innocent feathery green leaves, it seemed to say. Hold back, you flowers proclaiming glory. Spring, you've come too soon. There are soldiers in the parks, bayonets pointed, and teargas in the tulip beds.

Then I reached Lexington Street. The flower vendors had the corner filled with daffodils in anticipation of the Easter holiday.

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As I stood there, a shaft of sunlight touched the helmet of a National Guardsman, sparkled on the throat of a golden daffodil, and landed on the toes of a shiny pair of patent leather shoes worn by a proud little girl, all ready for Easter.

Then, suddenly there on the busy city street, with daffodils overflowing the sidewalk, came a feeling of spring's promise of renewal, a warmth that touched the soul - and a certainty that dreams and dreamers never die.

This was spring - a time of renewal, love, and warmth. The tulips by the city hall were in full bloom; the forsythia was in its golden glory. But the hate that could kill a man seemed like a cold winter, invading the promise of spring.