Garrett Lorne

I'm looking at the rules of the game, and the board, and the charts you made, and I see that in the beginning, when the game is set up, there seem to be ways available that the Spiders can hold off the police. Then not only does it get harder and harder for the Spiders to survive the more the numbers become weighted against them, but the rules themselves start to penalize the Spiders if individual pieces are separated from the group and they are forced to defend themselves in ones and twos. You've made it so that it's almost mathematically impossible for a single Spider piece to make it out of the Joke. It's not that way in the beginning. The game becomes more and more of a crooked table. Not only is there no way for the Spiders to win, but your rules are set up so that even repelling the police in any degree takes a lot of sheer luck. There's no strategy you can attempt to do it. Someone playing the game on the side of the Spiders is pretty much helpless in the fourth phase.

That's right. That's the way it was. I mean, nothing went right for them after a while. There were all these sporadic, isolated fights, and they got ridiculously outnumbered, and it dragged on and on, and the best any of them could do was give up. But because so few of them did, the whole thing dragged into the night, so yes, if you enter the fourth phase of the game, it becomes a little like when there are just a few checker pieces left on the board. The side with less of them can evade capture for a while, but it's all inevitable.

Is there any way out in the game at all?

You can somehow destroy the Worship Center. You can get the Resistance Intent to disrupt the barricades.

Mathematically, though, again, the chances of any of that happening in the game....

And again, that's the point. It's not a game for one side to win. It's what really happened. They never did get to the Worship Center on time, and Kojo Kendi betrayed them, so even though it could technically happen differently in the game, Kendi will almost certainly keep betraying them throughout eternity. You have as much chance to really change history as you do getting in a time machine and doing it for real. Not many people have ever truly played this game from beginning to end that I know of, or any of the other games. There's almost nothing to play. You have to look at it as a simulation of death, with different possible permutations. In the end, it will always be death.

How long could a player stretch it out, if he's down to just a handful of separated fighters, just trying to hang on?

You can go on for hours if you're smart. That's just what the Spiders almost did.

 

Marti Pogonowski, age 55, Summer Fan Avenue, Glen Elm

I heard this from someone, so I don't know how reliable it is, but then I swear I read something about it, and the name was the same, so maybe it's true. Anyway. They, the police, were going through one of the buildings and right in the middle of the hallway there was this old woman, just standing there as if nothing was happening. This was after everything was blowing up everywhere, everyone was shooting and so forth, that they came across this woman. And she said to them, You just keep doing what you think you have to do, I won't cause you any trouble, I'm just going to sit right down in my apartment and stay out of the way, things like that she said, like her being there was the most normal thing in the world. Only then she started talking about how they should hurry up and find the man who killed the president, he was probably getting away, and they realized that she thought it was the day they shot Kennedy. The woman had Alzheimer's and she had moved out a few days before but she had come back to the Joke and gone back into her building, no one knew why. They didn't know how she'd gotten back. It was one of those cases where a person with Alzheimer's wanders off and doesn't come back and finds their way somehow. So she was there through the whole thing. One of the SWAT people stayed with her in the building and just sat with her and kept her safe through the night, and she kept talking about how it was such a shame, that they would kill Kennedy right outside on the street. And it turned out that she had been there in Dallas fifty-some years ago, her granddaughter told the police it was true. She lived through both those things. I remembered her last name, Deck, otherwise I would have forgotten the story. But it might be a made-up story. You heard all kinds of things.

 

Fred Stafford, age 83, Viola Street, Glen Elm

They started burning the place as they went, didn't they? Wherever they went they would pour gasoline and they all had matches, they had matches when the whole thing began, I think that was the whole plan all along, and they figured, Well, the more fires there are the less they'll be after us, so a lot of the buildings got burned up. That was it, right? Those buildings were old and terrible and the sprinkler systems were all busted up, so they just went up and down the halls and set the place on fire. Wasn't any different than what the state was going to do to it, they were just gonna bulldoze the entire place, so it didn't make much difference. But that must have been some fire, when they did that.

 

Gene Rosenwood, age 92, Regents Court, Glen Elm

We all took a walk around the street out there, when we stopped watching TV, and oh, you could see these fires from about three or four of the buildings, but I guess because of the rain they didn't spread so well. We just stood out there and watched them. The wind would go this way and the fire would go this way, and then the wind would go that way and the fire would go that way. And some people started to point up at one of the buildings, it was a good long way away but they could see something in one of the buildings, one of the buildings that was on fire. And it was a man, we could see him pretty clear, he was sitting on one of those window ledges on the top floor. You couldn't tell what he was, if he was black or white or good or bad or whatever, he was just sitting and leaning back like he was watching things, you know, like he didn't care what was going on on the other side. But there was a fire in that building. There was fire, goddamn, it was on the same floor as he was, but he didn't care. And people on the street started waving up at him, everyone around me was doing that. He didn't do nothing, though, and I honestly can't recall what happened to him after that. I forget if he stayed there and I left or if I stayed and he left. But everyone was real excited, they kept saying they could see that he had a gun and he was wearing the gang clothes, but I couldn't see that, my eyesight wasn't so good even then. The police were right there, they didn't do a thing, they were just watching him too, the whole block was. There were even people out there shouting, "Burn it down, burn it down!" A lot of people were happy to see the buildings burning. They hated that place, it was the ugliest thing you ever saw.

 

Terry Lue, age 25, Orlando Street, Glen Elm

I thought it was the National Guard that attacked the slum, then someone told me it was the police and a SWAT team and the FBI. So I've never gotten the straight story on that. You see these pictures of it and it looks like a whole army was in there. I first heard about it on TV, I was flipping through the channels and on PBS they were doing a show about it on the anniversary of it, but I was like ten years old and for some reason I thought that it all happened in England. I swear to God, I thought it happened in England till I was like fourteen and we read about it at school. Then I realized it had happened in the state I lived in. But I had never seen a slum, when we went to the city we never saw anything like that. Then when I was sixteen we moved here, and I was excited because I thought, Wow, I'll be able to see all the places where everyone was shooting each other, but there was nothing left. The only way I could prove that this is where it happened was that I saw on video some old footage of it, and I remembered this one shoe store on Chalice Street from that footage. The store was still there and the street pretty much looked the same. Otherwise you'd have had a hard time proving it to me. Then last year I saw a show that had a lot of video shots that the FBI or the ATF or whoever had taken on that night inside the slum, and it just blew my mind. I kept thinking, that was here, I'm right in the place where all this was. All these shots of the police going through the dark and the rain, and you can hear shots on the tape, and once in a while you see an actual body on the ground. One guy, a gang guy, was wearing headphones and he was lying in a hallway, dead. You couldn't see a thing most of the time unless someone had a flashlight, or the police were moving past a place where there was a fire, then it got real eerie, there was this creepy glow around them. The one part that kind of shocked me was this part I didn't think they could show on television. Some guy from one of the gangs was face down in the middle of the street, and two cops were beside him, waiting for the medics to come or something, there wasn't anything they could do, and when they tried to turn him on his side you could see all this blood spurting out of his neck. And one of the cops was trying to take the gun out of his hand, this big scary looking gun, but either the guy was totally unconscious and couldn't let it go or he just wouldn't. You never saw his face.

Something else they showed that kind of shocked me was that on the side of one of the buildings every member of the gang had put their name and their tag or whatever it was called all together, every single one of them, even before the fight started. I mean it was like that for a while, it had nothing to do with the fight. This list of names ten feet high. They said not one gang member's name was left off that wall. When the night was over, even before the dawn of the next day, a bunch of cops took a photo of themselves standing in front of that wall, and I zeroed in on one of those guys for some reason and I noticed he was just smiling away. They had a light set up and everything so the photo wouldn't be too dark. Some of the names on the wall, those people were dead obviously, but they found time to take this snapshot, this souvenir. That struck me as being really sick.

 

Jeff Crews, age 30, Rosette Street, Glen Elm

One guy I heard about, I know he was in the army for a while before the siege, and he got called to Iraq, and he wouldn't go, he went AWOL, he just ran from the army because he refused to go to Iraq, and later on he joined the gang and wound up fighting that night, and would up getting killed. So by refusing to go to Iraq, he basically bought himself a couple of years of freedom, and then wound up fighting in the streets and dying anyway, except it was here and not over there. So not much point in him going AWOL after all.

 

Garrett Lorne

That man's name was Martin Dole. He was in the army, and he did go to Iraq, and he was there for eight months, and when he came back he was discharged, honorably discharged. Things didn't work out for him after that and he sort of drifted into the Spiders, he moved into the Joke and eventually wound up associating with them, but he never actually joined them. He was the only one in the Joke who kept a written journal during that year, and it was found much later. That's a real rarity, that someone of that relatively low educational level would do that. He may have adopted the habit from his time in the army. It's almost illegible, most of it, really tough to read, and it doesn't say much, and it says absolutely nothing about the siege. The last entry he made was a couple of months before it. He wrote one entry about talking to a friend of his who he calls Bus Driver and says he feels bad he lied to this man because when Bus Driver asked him what Iraq was like, he told him he had felt absolutely nothing there, positive or negative, and he didn't feel anything about it still, he told him that all it was was a year of his life gone and he wasn't changed by it at all. And apparently Bus Driver had said to him, "Man, if it didn't change you at all, how'd you wind up living here, with no job, and hanging out with the Spiders?" Dole died of gunshot wounds to the stomach in the hospital on December 11 or 12.

 

Angela Byars, age 28, Viola Street, Glen Elm

We lived a few miles away but my parents put me in the car and we actually drove over there as close as we could get. They really knew it was some kind of history that was happening. All I remember really is getting out of the car and hearing this enormous thundering sound, and getting really scared, they told me I started to cry, and what it was, was a helicopter going overhead and hovering over the area. I looked up and saw this big bright light shining down. But for some reason they didn't take me home right then, they wanted to stay and watch it all. After that I just remember one helicopter after another, they were circling in the air and hovering and making these huge noises, and I stopped being scared and I really liked it after a while, or so they said. We were there for like two hours, and all I remember is the helicopters. It felt to me like one long, buzzing, echoing sound run all together. My mother was holding an umbrella over me and every minute or so I would peek out from under it and see another bright white light. It was like an eclipse, I would move my head forward and the light would get strong, and I would move my head back and I would slowly make it disappear. My memory is one bright light up there after another, they could have told me the stars had gotten close to the Earth and I would have believed them. They finally took me away when it got too cold to keep standing there. Then we were stopped at a stoplight and my mother shouted, "Look, Angela, look!" And I looked out the window and one of the helicopters buzzed over us to the left, and I could actually see the lights and the markings on the side of it as it went by, it was so low. That's my most vivid memory of the night. I had no conception of people dying. To me it was a big light and sound show, and it felt like the world was ending, but I guess because my parents were there I didn't mind, it was an adventure.

 

T.L.S.

We did what we could but me and Tom Tom got so damn wiped out, our legs were getting cramps from running, and we were totally wet, so we took some cover and just wound up kinda paralyzed. We were in F for like a half an hour. He kept saying he knew what we were gonna do but we kept not doing anything. We saw a total of two guys go past on 11th toward the quad. I wanted to go out there just 'cause I was so nervous but Tom Tom was like, "No no, we gotta figure out what's going on instead of running around 'cause we're gonna get wasted." His eyes were getting real wide and spacey, not like before when he seemed all right. Meanwhile we kept hearing shooting and three or four trucks went past. We just watched 'em, we were out of sight. Finally I said I was going out there no matter what, and he said he was gonna cover me from above. That sounded like bullshit to me, he just didn't know what to do and he didn't want to go out there again. I took maybe three steps out and I just couldn't go any further, you know? I had that feeling like if I got surprised by something I'd get annihilated, like the whole population of cops in the whole country was right there waiting. So I listened for a while. All the action sounded like it was kind of moving away from us. I went back in and I went over to the steps near the elevators and Tom Tom was lying on his back with his eyes closed. I said, "What are you doing?" and he said, "Man, this is all over, there's nothin' we can do, we lost. We messed up, they got us dead to rights." His voice was weird and slurry, so I asked him why, and he said, "I'm goin' to sleep. I wanna be asleep when they come." And for a second I thought he OD'd. My eyes bugged out of my head. But all he did, I swear to God, was take some sleeping pills you could get from CVS, just a few of 'em, like you'd take if you were just knockin' out for the night. Nighty-night, I'm goin' to sleep. That's all he wanted, was to sleep. Right there on the stairs. He must've had 'em when the night started, maybe he had trouble sleeping or something, the stress. He turned his head away from me like he didn't want to see anything anymore. That was so crazy, but it wasn't much crazier than anything else. He didn't care anymore what happened. So I left him there. I didn't say a word, and I was gone.

 

Paul Bias, age 37, Key Street, Glen Elm

There was kind of an artist who lived there, and he was a member of that gang. Oh God, I can't remember the name of the gang now, it'll come to me. The one that fought. But he was the one who did all the graffiti, all the really interesting graffiti, in the slum. Ali Krebbs was his name. See, that I remember but not the name of the gang, it's strange. He was killed that night, he got shot. They showed his funeral on the news, they focused on his funeral in particular one night, because he'd painted those giant candles on half the buildings. You know how the news is, they would highlight certain people who died in the siege and try to find the human interest angle. Now if you go to the Outsider Art Museum in Cincinnati, they put one of those walls back up, one that he painted, they saved the bricks, it's in there, so you can see what these things looked like. Then a few years ago, this is sad, someone drew a big chalk outline of a couple of candles that looked like his on the street, the one that crosses East-West Street. No one found out who did it. And the paper ran the story and then this pathetic little urban legend started about how his ghost walks Glen Elm, and he's mad because we took all his buildings away, and he can't ever rest. I learned this from my son, he's seven. This legend went around his school. So that's how they know the name Ali Krebbs.

 

Senator John D'Acquisto

By seven-thirty or so, eight o'clock, Elias Snowden knew they were doomed, just by the numbers. The lower ones in the ranks were giving up, actual arrests were being made. He must have been trying to contact his other soldiers by radio, but by then they were most likely dead. Actually, Ali Krebbs was definitely dead I should say, because his body was pulled from underneath a car at the barricade, he died trapped under there. So Rod Baker was nowhere, all their contact was useless, the snipers who could have just held the police at bay long into the night had abandoned their places, or had to leave because they were rooted out. They did a lot of damage. They did more damage than anyone running through the Joke on foot, more damage than even the ones who fought at the barricade. But they couldn't bring themselves to sit still for that long, not without someone commanding them to do it. All Elias Snowden had was five of his men in Building G, and they all still had their guns. One of the men with him, a man named Anthony Toney, Toney T they called him, had been all around the Joke that night, he'd been absolutely everywhere and he'd managed to get back to Building G and connect with Snowden again. And they had about five minutes of breathing room. They knew it was only a matter of time before they got caught in a shootout, all six of them together.

 

Anthony Toney, age 42, Indiana State Penitentiary

Elias was wild, he was like an animal, he was pacing around, trying to figure what to do and be a leader. We were on the first floor, and there was like no sound outside. You could hear shots once in a while, but where we were it was real quiet. That just made Elias more agitated. You couldn't even hear any choppers except once in a while. We couldn't even see each other in the dark. If you weren't against a window, you weren't even there. Then he said he had an idea. We were just going to run for Parks Avenue, right at them. And I said, "What are we gonna do then?" And Elias was like, "That don't matter, see, we're just gonna run right at 'em." I told him I'd been over there, I told him they had cars and cops everywhere to make sure none of us got out, especially not out that way because that was Merrifield, in that direction. You know they had more cops on Parks than anywhere else because that way was all the white people in their townhouses and all the nice stores out that way. He had me tell him exactly what I saw, how many cops there were and where, and what they were doing. He still didn't care. He was like, "That's where we gotta go, we can break through, and if we break through, we're gonna tear that place up, and they can come get us." He wanted us to just get together and we'd all run all the way to Merrifield, we'd just run as fast as we could, and we'd just go right at the cops there. And there wasn't even a second of talk about it. I said yes, Spy Plane said yes, Groper said yes, everybody was in. We were just gonna run right at them. We were just gonna unload everything we had left right in their face, and then get on into Merrifield. Not even for a second did we hesitate. It was just move, move, move. And we were out the door and onto the street. It was like God was causing us to move. I don't how we did it on our own.

 

Garrett Lorne

They decided on what was basically a suicide mission. Charge the ones waiting at Parks, take them by surprise. If they got through, then past that was Merrifield, where they'd get away however they could. Why not? They were past reason by then, obviously. A third of the gang was dead. You'd see the same thing in a military battle, there'd be no difference. If a platoon gets cut down to almost nothing, then here comes the enemy, charging at them, outnumbering them twenty to one, what would they do? If there was nowhere they could go? They'd go forward. They'd go forward. Not back. Because there's something literally burning inside them, to meet the end head on.

 

Senator John D'Acquisto

They would go at the police full speed, taking any of them out if they could, and get across the Green Rose Parkway into Merrifield somehow. Somehow, on foot. They knew what was waiting for them when they got to Parks. But if they somehow got past them, made it past the cordon, then God help everyone in Merrifield. They could cause enough mayhem there to make the world remember them for years and years. First was escape, but then Elias Snowden was urging them to kill someone, the people sitting at home a mile away watching it all in comfort. He was very specific about this, "kill them all." From the testimony of the people who were arrested, we learned that he figured on everyone there cowering in fear of them, which would allow the Spiders to tear through, and he wanted to make a statement there, do something shocking. But getting past the cordon was the ultimate goal, that was the last one they really had left. There just wasn't much of anything else to want.

So the six of them began to run.

 

From the notebook of Herbert Le Beth, for his grandson Damon

I watched what I could about the siege on television until about seven-thirty, and then I felt like I couldn't sit still anymore. I had an idea about what I wanted to do, but I was scared to do it. But every minute I sat inside my apartment, I was feeling stranger and stranger. Anything I knew about what was going on was because of the TV, and I couldn't take it anymore. So I turned it off and sat there for a while, and then I went out. I couldn't find an umbrella so I went out into the rain without one. I walked down to the corner store and I stood in there while I waited for the bus to come. They didn't have the TV on in there. While I waited I bought a flashlight and some batteries for it. If they didn't have a flashlight to sell there, I might have eventually gone back home, I think. But they did, and when the bus came I got on it, and I rode it to Gray Hill, which was about a mile and a half from where I lived. Gray Hill was only a few blocks from the west side of the Joke. If I looked all the way down the street I could see the lights of police cars down there, and the side of Building E. You couldn't even get down there, it was roped off. Almost all of the Joke was roped off by then, and policemen standing every twenty feet around it.

I started walking the other way, through the neighborhood there, which wasn't a good neighborhood at all but nothing like the Joke. The streets were quiet, everyone was inside watching what was going on on TV, or they were near the places where the Joke was roped off, trying to see something if they could. So I was alone. I walked up and down the side streets, looking at manholes. I was looking for one that was open. A long, long time ago, when I was in my teens, I knew some kids who stole manhole covers once in a while and sold them for scrap. And I knew kids still did that sometimes. It depended on what the market for scrap metal was like, stealing the covers came in waves. Back then the kids I played with talked me into going down into a sewer once in the middle of the night and I spent ten minutes down there before we got caught. A policeman saw us down there from where he was on the street and we got into trouble. Charles had been down there too, he was picked up there once by the police when he was eleven. He said he was just running around with some kids but it turned out that someone from the Dark Reds had told them to go down there and they'd pay them if they spray painted their sign on the walls. I remembered a little of what it was like down in the sewers, and for the last hour I had been thinking there was a small chance I could get down into one again, even though I was so much older. I really didn't think I'd do it. I had no idea where any of the sewers led. But Charles had just died, they had even called me to come and identify his body. I never picked up when they had called. I let the answering machine take the message and I played it a few times, I don't know why. I listened to the way they sort of hinted at what had happened but never said it straight. They didn't say 'Charles is dead, come down'. I got convinced somehow that I knew the voice of the man who left the message. I wasn't in my right mind.

After about ten minutes I saw that there was an open manhole cover on Nell Street. A road crew or someone had put up a couple of orange barriers around it, but nothing that couldn't be taken away. I was all alone and no one was around to see me. I stood over it for a while and looked down into it. I saw that there was a ladder leading down into the sewer and I could climb down into it if I wanted, no one could stop me except myself. I didn't think I could do it physically. I didn't have bad arthritis like I do now but I was still old. I stood at the edge of it and I waited for someone to come, but nobody did. There were apartments all around and a few cars on the street, but nobody at all came. So I sat down on the street and put my legs into the hole, and I managed to get myself onto the ladder, but I was scared because it felt shaky and I could barely fit. Also I didn't know if there wasn't someone right down below, working. I had the flashlight stuffed into my sock and it felt like it would fall out. I didn't want to be there anymore but I kept going, and I got down below the street. I can't describe what was going on in my head, that I would do such a thing. It sounds all planned out but it wasn't. All the parts of it, I just did them as I thought them up. It all worked out too easy, from finding a flashlight to finding an open sewer to no one coming along and stopping me. Maybe that was the only manhole you could get into for miles. It didn't seem like it should be that easy.

I worked my way down the ladder in the total dark. It was a long long way down, about twenty feet it felt like, and then there weren't any more rungs, and I dropped down a bit into a half an inch of water, just enough to soak through the bottoms of my shoes. Then I bent down and took out the flashlight. I couldn't see anything. It was totally black in front of my face. If I looked up I could see a little circle of dark blue high above my head where the manhole was. Finally I heard one car go past, it sounded like it was inside a tube. The sound was different down there. I had to unwrap the batteries I had in the dark, then put them into the flashlight in the dark. The first time I got the batteries in the wrong way, because it didn't turn on. The second time it worked. So then the only way I would have been able to go through the sewer in the general direction of the Joke was if there was some kind of angle to the right. And I saw one almost right away. All I had to do was go forward about thirty or forty feet. The inside of the sewer was completely rusty, it was just a huge tunnel about four times as high as I was tall, with nothing in it at all except scum on the sides of it and some paint once in a while, a really fast drawing just to show people that someone had been there. There were orange streaks once in a while too that the sewer crews had left. The sides of the tunnel looked dark red. The smell wasn't awful but it was strange, like they had run a chemical through the whole sewer before I got there. Everything echoed. There was a whistle sound going all through it, I could barely hear it but it was there. The water was still about a half inch deep and my feet got very cold. The rest of me did too, it was almost painful how cold it was. I had heard stories about people dying in the sewers because of some gases that were released through them sometimes, so I was scared of that. Mostly I was scared to be alone. It wasn't until a couple of years later that I learned that there were police in the sewers that night too, but only on two sides of the Joke. The SWAT teams used them to get in, and they had a few men down there to make sure the Spiders didn't try to escape through the sewers. So far as anyone knows, escaping through them never even occurred to any of them. And so far as anyone knew right then, I was the only one not on the police who had the idea to maybe get inside the Joke through them.

By the time I got to the turn to the right, I was so cold that I thought something was wrong, I thought that maybe the sewers were frozen on purpose in some way, to keep people out or as part of whatever they did every day. My hands were shaking and it was almost tough to breathe. My ankles really hurt bad. All I could see was whatever the flashlight saw. So I almost didn't go on again, but when I turned the corner I could see that the tunnel led a long way in that direction, so I went down it even though the ceiling got very low for a while, it was just a few feet above my head. I started to get claustrophobic. The whole thing sloped down very very slightly, I guess to guide the water down when it went. The little bit of water below me was gone. Then I got worried that maybe I would get lost, and not be able to find my way out, because when I turned the flashlight up at the ceiling, I didn't see any manhole covers and no ladders either. I didn't know how to lift one if it was locked or sealed. Even if it wasn't, I didn't see how I was going to keep myself on a ladder and push up on one. But like I said, it all didn't matter, I wasn't going to stop.

The tunnel got back to normal size and it curved to the left about a block down, so I had to follow it that way. The slope was a little bit more downward than before. At that point I couldn't hear even the smallest traffic sounds anymore. That meant to me that I was in a place where the traffic wasn't allowed, which was a good sign. All I could hear was my feet, the echo of them, and that whistle sound which never stopped. I was trying to focus on which direction I was going. The tunnel kept moving parallel to Nell Street for a while and I was getting discouraged when it opened in two different ways and I got back on track again.

I was in the sewer for almost a half an hour, I think. There were a couple of turns I had to take but mostly it was easy to keep track of where I was. It led me exactly where I hoped it would. I remember saying out loud there in the tunnel, "I'm at Attucks Street." That was my marker, so I knew I had to go a certain distance more to the east to get to a place where there I would be out of sight of the police cordons. I didn't see anyone down in the sewer, and no one saw me or heard me. I bet I could go down there again ten times and every single time something would go wrong, but it just didn't. I did get a case of frostbite and I almost lost one of my fingers. The further I got into the sewer the more nervous I was. But I never stopped and I never panicked. My flashlight went off for just a second a couple of times, probably because it was cheap and it was so cold that the batteries were affected.

When I thought I was in a place that was deep inside the Joke, I started looking upward again for a manhole. That was when I almost lost track of where I was, because in all my looking up, I wasn't focusing on where exactly I was. I went probably a full two blocks in another direction before I saw one. All I could do was go up the ladder in the dark and hope for the best. I couldn't hold the flashlight and go up at the same time. So I shut it off, and that was the worst time, right there. When I put my hands on the ladder, the steel was so freezing I had to wait a second and force myself to do it again. It was painful. There was some stuff on the ladder, it was garbage, I guess it stuck to the ladder as it floated by when the water was at a high level. I went up in total darkness. I climbed as fast as I could, which wasn't fast at all. I kept slipping just a bit more every time. I knew that sometimes manhole covers weighed fifty pounds or more and I remember starting to cry just before I tried to push up on the one above me with my spare hand while shoving my body against the ladder as tight as I could so I wouldn't fall. I could just barely move the manhole cover. It took me ten tries, pushing as hard as I could, to move it just so that the lip of it was raised enough and I could push it forward just a few inches, all at once. Then little by little I pushed it to the side. The whole thing took at least ten minutes. Every minute that went by I thought the moving of the manhole would be noticed by someone up top. My arm hurt bad and my feet were soaked. I was sweating, which was bad because that's how you can get hypothermia. I would have thought about that then if I was thinking normally.

I climbed out of the manhole and there I was, I was inside the Joke. I got up as fast as I could because I was worried I might get seen and shot. But I couldn't hear anything. There was no one on the street where I was. I couldn't tell at first exactly which street I had come out on, but it was empty. The Joke was a big place and I had come out where there was nothing going on. Then I had to sit, almost lie down entirely beside the manhole because my body hurt so much, I was breathing really hard and fast. I kept my eyes closed. I guess I was ready to die if someone wanted to shoot me. I opened my eyes and they adjusted and I realized I was on 10th, which was not where I figured I would come out, based on where the sewer had taken me. I was far away from that, but I had made it inside. I was two blocks from where any police cordon was, so I had really made it and could go where I wanted until I got spotted. I was too stunned to move anywhere, though. I had never seen the Joke like that, with no light anywhere, just the stars overheard. Everything was the same color, it didn't look so ugly that way. Then I did hear something, which was a helicopter off to my right. I looked in that direction and there was a kind of glow there, hidden behind the Education Annex. The glow wasn't moving so I thought the helicopter wasn't moving, but I went across the street to Building E and went inside to the lobby to keep out of sight. More and more I was beginning to see things. From the lobby there I could see far off in the distance, and I saw a fire in one of the high windows of what I figured was Building G. That was about a half mile away. Then I saw at about the same time a truck go past down that way. The sound of it came to me a split second later. I decided to walk through the building and come out the other side rather than go out on the street. I could almost read the graffiti inside the building because my night vision had improved so much. I was sad because the building was in such worse shape than when I had seen it last. It was like a war had already been through it, but it was the people who lived inside it who did the damage, and the people who were supposed to not let that happen. You could feel that this was a place that not one person on Earth cared about. It was like they hated it so much they couldn't stop themselves from beating it down and torturing it. At least it was just a little bit warmer, not much but a little, and it was dry.

I went down a hallway where there used to be a laundry room but which was walled up now. There was an exit there and I went through the door onto Bunche Street. It wasn't really raining then. There I started to hear more sounds. I thought I heard a shot from far away but I might have been wrong. But then there was definitely a shot from not far off, but whose it was I couldn't tell. It sounded like someone had yelled "Lon!" Like Lon was a name, I just got that sense. I'll never know. And I could see a helicopter go off to the north, in the direction of Point Unity, flying pretty low. There was a siren but it might have not even had anything to do with the Joke. All the way down Bunche, so far away I couldn't make out anything, there was a flashing light that went on and off against the side of a building, like the light on top of a police car reflecting off it, except the color was green. I felt like I wasn't totally alone, like I might come across a lot of people at any minute.

I stepped out into the middle of the street. If I looked the other way down Bunche I could see the old church out there. It was quiet, no fires there. So when it burned it must have happened very late, near the very end, because it was there and fine when I saw it. When I looked back from it I saw someone. It was a shock. They didn't see me. It was someone on the sidewalk up ahead, his back was to me, he was kneeling. I took a few steps forward. The person was kneeling over someone. A body was lying on the sidewalk, face up, the arms were completely stretched out, the legs were completely stretched out. The person wasn't doing anything to the body, he wasn't helping in any way, he was just kneeling. I got close enough to say Hey, which I had to say twice because the first time nothing came out of my throat, it didn't work. And the person turned. He looked at me and saw me, even though he had to lean forward to see me in the dark. He didn't say anything, not a thing. I had never seen him before. I didn't know who he was at all, not until later. This man was Father Lawrence Beddis. He worked in the Joke and he was the one the Spiders had come to get so they could show him their hostage. Then he had been sent out and was questioned by the police. Somehow he had gone back into the Joke. I didn't know how he did it, and because we never really said anything at all to each other, I didn't find out for a long time how he did it, and I still don't understand why. Nobody does. But there he was, and he was with the body of a Street Spider. Father Beddis was so still and quiet that I asked him who this man was. He said, "It's Rod Baker." That was a name I knew, because it had been on the television. I looked at the body. I couldn't see where there were any wounds on it. His face was looking at the sky and his eyes were open. It didn't look like anyone had shot him. It was like he had just stopped. He didn't even have a gun. He seemed small somehow. Father Beddis must have known he was dead, and maybe he had already given him the last rites, or maybe he never did at all. I assumed there was nothing that could be done. We stayed like that for a while, maybe a whole minute. That was the last we ever spoke. Then he stood up and walked off. He didn't even look at me again. He walked off down 9th Street. He had a bad cut on the back of his right hand, I think. I didn't follow him. I had this sense he wanted to go where there was real activity, which wasn't what I wanted. I just wanted to be there, kind of hidden. So he left me with Rod Baker's body, and I didn't want that. That was the first dead body I had ever seen up close. I went in the other direction, I went toward the old church. As I was walking there I turned and looked back. Father Beddis was already gone. There was just Rod Baker's body. I could mostly just see the bottoms of his shoes.

I was leaving. It looked like there was nothing and no one in the direction of the old church. I had thought the police had entirely surrounded the area, but not really, of course there were big gaps, they had left gaps where there was no fighting and they thought it was safe to send more men in. There weren't any roads leading directly out that way. It felt normal to be right there. There was almost no difference between walking toward the church then and walking toward it on any other night except for the total dark. Way beyond the church you could see the lights of Gray Hill. On the way there it was just flat land, except for a huge area where there was rubble and debris from some building they'd torn down since we lived there. I got closer to the church and at one point I stopped because I definitely heard shooting. I turned around and looked back. I could see another fire, a bigger fire, far away, I had more of a range of vision now that the buildings were falling farther behind me. But still no people. I listened for a minute. The shooting started again, then stopped fast. It didn't come back again. When I turned to keep walking, I happened to look up at the sky, and there were stars everywhere. There were more stars than I could ever remember seeing. I had never been to the mountains and so I didn't know that when all the artificial light is taken away, you can see everything in the sky. That was the first time I saw that much. I'll never forget it. I didn't feel cold or tired or sad just then, I was amazed instead. I stood there perfectly still, looking up. The old church was just a black blot against it. I looked at how black the church was against the brightness of the stars. It was quiet again. Then I kept walking. I knew if I looked back I'd be able to see a wide view of things, but I was afraid of what I'd see, so I never did. So I was there for about thirty minutes, all told. When I got near the neighborhood on the far side, I couldn't see the stars in the sky anymore because the lights were back, the lights in the houses and the businesses and the street lamps. Then two policemen came running up to me. One of them said, "Are you hurt?" He must have known from my clothes that I wouldn't cause any harm. He told me he thought I was a homeless person. Some of them had been coming out of the Joke. They didn't arrest me, they just asked me a couple of questions I don't remember and let me walk away. I remember that part of it only vaguely. Some of the details I've written down here, it seems like I'm only recalling them for the first time now. I was in a very weak physical state when I was in the Joke, I barely made it home, and some of what I've written might have happened a little differently, and the sickness distorted things. It all happened, but the little sights and sounds seem more like what came to me in my dreams as the years went on. For instance, when I think of turning around and looking back at it I see a lot more fires in my mind, lots of little ones high up in the windows of buildings, when I really didn't see that many. At home that night I fell into bed and slept for a whole day, I was in and out of consciousness, and my entire right side was in horrible pain because of how I had to push my way up through the manhole. I didn't do anything about my frostbite. I was still very sick when the police came to talk to me.

Once in a while I try to sit and think of what it was like to be feeling how I was that night when I decided I'd try to get into the Joke. I can't figure it out, though, it has to be grief that causes that kind of experience, I guess. Two years before the siege I visited my half sister in Baltimore and one day we went on a church trip to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to see the Civil War battlefields there. I was walking through one and I read a plaque that told me I was standing on the very place where one of the armies charged the other from over a ridge, and I looked up and the ridge was right in front of me. That stayed with me all the way home and for the next few days, and I think a small part of what made me go into the Joke was some kind of wish to be in a place where something gigantic was happening. It wasn't conscious. I just needed to be there. That was the place where my son died, where your father died, and I needed to be on that spot. I think already I was wondering what history would say about it all. I didn't want to be just someone who read about it years later. I wanted to know what it was like to stand someplace as it was all happening. I didn't want to see the Tree or where Charles stayed when he stayed in the Joke. Just to be on the street for one moment, that was enough and I was done. So that's what I think part of it was, and the grief of losing Charles actually was the only thing that made me able to accomplish it. I don't feel any pride in having been there. But I can deal with it better knowing that I was there for one moment. Maybe when I die, I'll go feeling like I had a connection to something bigger than I was. That would be something I'd really want.

 

Peter Hammersmith

The Spiders who decided to run for the cordon on Parks were spotted right away. We had about two dozen men shifting in that direction because there really was no one over there to speak of, there had been so much moving around to respond to the flare-up areas that about a third of the outside cordon could have been penetrated at any given time after eight o'clock. It was just something we had to deal with, there was only so much personnel we had. But the ones who ran never would have made it anyway because we were coming at them from three different sides. They never would have gotten close.

 

Michael Grandy, age 16, Summer Fan Avenue, Glen Elm

It was the skinheads, they attacked them, there was this big battle in the street. The gang was coming out and the skinheads were going in to find them.

 

Garrett Lorne

There were five of them, they had baseball bats, knives, no guns, they had wandered around for two hours looking for a way in on the east side and there it was, over near an underpass that went below the Green Rose Parkway. Absolutely no cops there at all because of the Worship Center mess, they needed everyone they could get. A few of the skinheads were drunk. They'd been watching the TV all day and Drew Gamble had them thinking revenge, and here finally there was something they could do, they could take advantage of the gaps. They saw the Spiders going down 14th, they had slowed down, maybe because they were confused because it seemed like it was going to be an easy way out and they were thinking Well, it's a trick. Then the skinheads started screaming at the tops of their lungs and charging at them from out of nowhere.

 

Richard Yates, age 55

I had to go on desk duty for a month after that night while the investigations started, and after that I resigned, and for a lot of years I was fine with everything that happened, I didn't think about it all that much, even when someone called me for an interview or something like that. They would ask me for all these details, what I saw, and I would just sort of recite them. I slept all right, it was all okay. Because I guess I'd seen a lot of things up till then. But then about ten years ago I was on vacation with my wife and my kids in L.A., and we were driving down to Disneyland, and we got lost and we wound up in this nasty area of Anaheim, just really bad. Guys standing around on the corners, checking us out, all the businesses with cages on the windows. And we went down this one street with all this graffiti on all the buildings, and I tensed up real bad, and I could feel all this adrenalin shooting through me in a really negative way. It felt like someone turned on a switch inside my spine and started pumping me full of electrified acid. I had to pull over and I said it was to look at the map, but that wasn't it. We got out of there okay but that night I started seeing all that writing written on the buildings, I saw it all in my mind again, and then clear as a bell it hit me, after all those years, I thought My God, all the things I saw during the siege, they happened right here in this country, the buildings were just like the ones I saw in Anaheim, no different. Obviously I knew it, but I'd never really felt how horrifying that was, that this was America it happened in and I could see those kinds of slums anytime I wanted. When I came around the corner back then and I saw the skinheads and the Spiders fighting there wasn't any time to absorb it, we just had to get in there and do what we could, and it wasn't until after I left Anaheim that I began to see it all again. My doctor told me Yeah, that could easily have been triggered by going down that one street in Anaheim. From then on I couldn't go into the city, I mean any city. I just can't do it. I get close to anywhere there's tall buildings and traffic and I feel that adrenalin going through me and if I'm in a car I have to pull over. It doesn't matter who's driving. So I live out here now. My family knows about it, they understand. If I hadn't seen that last fight, I think I would have been all right. But that kind of broke me up. What they were doing to each other, to see that, and the fact that it wasn't in Vietnam or anyplace like that, I don't know why but it got into me too deep. It can happen to anyone. A guy I know came onto the scene a half hour after it was all over and he had nightmares for six months because he saw the guy that had his head almost cut off. It was that bad.

I really had to go on medication when the other thing developed, where I got nervous and upset if I saw any kind of handwriting on things where it shouldn't be. Like if I see something painted on an overpass, but worse that that. I can have a bad episode anywhere. I was in Goodwill and someone had scratched a bunch of words into a dresser that was in there, and I actually felt an attack coming. For a month I didn't even want to go out because I might see that kind of thing anywhere. But then I got the medicine, and it's still a problem but I can muddle through. I had a bad time just a few months ago because somebody had written one word, just one lousy word on the back of a road sign a mile from where I live, like it was some kind of a statement. I was stopped in the car and I saw it and for a couple of days I didn't even know what it meant, I just knew I'd seen it or heard it somewhere and it made me feel sick, it messed up my sleeping. I was afraid to ask anyone where I'd seen that word before. Finally I realized what it meant and I went back myself and covered it up with paint so I'd never have to see it again.

What was it?

"Chapelwaite."

 

from an eBay listing posted March 21, 2014, item # 6938873712:

This is a sneaker recovered from 14th Street in Bello Gardens the night of the Siege of Bello Gardens, December 7, 2007. That horrible night ended when a group of skinheads led by Andrew Gamble attacked a group of fleeing Street Spiders, resulting in the violent deaths of two of each. In all, forty-one people died that night in one of the saddest episodes of racial violence in American history.

This sneaker was taken into evidence and eventually released to the Barnet Redd African American History Museum in Boston, where it was on display for two years before the museum closed. The shoe was then purchased by a private party and is being legally sold here. An affidavit held by the museum and included in the bidding on this item testifies that the shoe belonged to Richard Horn, one of the skinheads killed in the final melee. Its condition is nearly identical to the way it was when it was first discovered.

It will be shipped to the high bidder contained in a sturdy hinged plastic display case with a solid oak base for extra protection.

Additional photos of this item, and more details about its condition as well as its place in the history of the Siege of Bello Gardens, are available by clicking on the web link below. Also note my other current auctions of Siege memorabilia.

 

Akili Chones, age 46, Terre Haute United States Penitentiary

I don't like to think about Elias because it gets me down. It wasn't that he got out of there somehow and never got caught. That's unbelievable, the Lord must have touched him, He must have wanted to protect him so he could get out and be changed and then do good in this world. He was surrounded and he got out without a scratch, so that to me is the only explanation, it was a divine action by the Lord. Why I get down is because I had a couple of ways I could have turned out all right. If I was there and I got killed there, that would have been one way, or I could have stayed out of jail and done like Elias did, that was another way. But I don't get how he did it, I mean, sometimes I'm lying there at night and I'll pray. I'll just pray, and I ask God to give me what Elias got, he got this thing where he could forgive people and change. I mean, I know there's all kinds of ways of looking at things that happen, and nothing is anyone's fault totally, but I guess I'll never get it. I don't forgive things like he did. Maybe if I could I wouldn't be in here. He loves those kids he works with, he told me, and I just can't love anybody. Nobody ever showed me how to do that so I figure now it's too late. I mean, where....how am I gonna learn how to do that now? So I ask God to give it to me if it's not too late, but you know, that's just dreaming. So I wind up crying like a little kid and wishing I had just been there and died with my boys. I don't want to wind up dying in here because then that's dying for stupid stuff, like I got in here to begin with because of stupid stuff. Me dying won't mean anything if it's in here. It could have been good in the Joke, that's the only place I feel like it would have. Instead I'm probably gonna be just some guy who died in jail. I missed it by a few days and that changed everything for me. If I had just been there, then whatever happened after that, all right. Instead here I am. I had a chance to get back a long time ago, but then I fucked up bad, I got into some things with some people here, trying to set myself up when I got out, and that just added more to my sentence and messed up my parole. My chance at parole. Stupid, I mean brain dead stupid, that's what I was. I don't even believe it, how dumb I was. And I'll tell you, if I ever do get out, that's the first place I'm going. I have to, I know it's not even really there anymore, it's all a bunch of houses. That's all right because I'll still know where I am. If I have the chance I'm gonna blow my head off right on the street.

 

Garrett Lorne

Two men broke off from the fight on 14th Street. One of the skinheads, Buddy Harris, started to chase a Spider named Helton Dillon. Harris had already stabbed Dillon once, in the ankle, and they got away from the crowd right as the police got there, and they were a little late in the chase, they couldn't catch up. Harris started chasing Dillon on foot, both of them running as fast as they could. Harris was about twenty feet behind him. Dillon was just running blind, he didn't care where he was going, he had no gun anymore and he was going to be killed by Harris if he stopped. Harris had a hunting knife, Dillon had nothing at all anymore. In all the chaos nobody radioed out that they were coming, that they had to be stopped, or if somebody did make the call, it didn't do any good. Or the chase took a couple of turns nobody could follow. Nobody claims to know for sure. The chase lasted eight blocks and no one got to them until it was too late.

 

Mark Brown, age 31, East-West Street, Glen Elm

All right. We were on the bus, it was me and my mother and my father, we were sitting sort of near the front of it, stopped in traffic, I think there was a lane closed up ahead. We wouldn't have even been on the bus except our car was being fixed. It was pretty crowded. I was looking out the window to the right and here came somebody running right at the bus, right at it. The people in front of us kind of gasped. I could see the guy was black and pretty big, wearing a jacket, and behind him, pretty close behind him, was a white guy, he was bald, he was wearing jeans and a Colorado Rockies T-shirt. He had a knife. The black guy was going so fast he slammed into the side of the bus, he collided with it. My mother grabbed me out of instinct and some people backed away from the windows, I'm sure some of them thought we'd gotten hit by a car, that was how big the slam was. I closed my eyes tight for just a second. Then I heard a noise from the front of the bus, and the driver had gotten out of his seat to see what had happened, he opened up the doors with that handle and he took one step toward getting out and I saw the head of the black guy appear, he was trying to get into the bus. He sort of dove in, and the white guy was right behind him. The black guy was screaming for help. We were in the third seat from the front so we saw it happen right in front of us. The white guy collapsed on the black guy's back and he started stabbing him in the back with this knife he had, right below the neck, and everyone was screaming, the driver shoved himself against the driver's side window, the people in the seat ahead of us were already up and people were pushing like crazy to get away from it. Everyone was out of their seats and backing away. But my father had thrown his arms over me and was pushing me down into the seat while my mother was just screaming. I could still see what was happening for about three more seconds. I saw the white guy stab the black guy about nine or ten times, the black guy's body wasn't moving at all after the first couple of stab wounds I saw the guy inflict, but he was still trying to scream for help. That was so scary, that he couldn't move except for his....his voice still worked but nothing else did. I didn't see any blood for some reason. The white guy said nothing, he just whipped his hand down again and again and then someone grabbed him from behind, someone from the outside. Everyone who hadn't forced their way out of the side doors of the bus was crying and shouting, and then my father was getting up to help the guy who was stabbed to death, and it was too late of course. This is the third time I'm telling the story. I had to tell the police, then they made me see a psychologist and I had to tell her, and now it's been twenty-two years and now I guess I'm finally done. So that was my part in history. I saw the last person die. Or maybe he wasn't the last person, maybe there were more after that. And where do I live now? About six blocks from where that murder happened. It's a small world.

My God, though, how the whites and blacks hated each other after that night. This country was pretty messed up for a while.

But it's like they say, you know, time heals all wounds,

and now,

obviously,

everything is fine.

 

 

 

 

Herbert Le Beth passed away at his home in Indianapolis in September of 2030. Among his possessions were his son Charles's handwritten notes for a political autobiography he would never publish. They had been given to Herbert after Charles's death. Consisting of fragmented memories covering thirty-one pages, they had been worked on over the course of a few years and never organized into any sort of chronological order. Virtually all of the memories dealt with his experiences as a public figure and his impressions of race relations in America. There was almost no mention of his time with the Dark Reds, and only one reference to his life before age eighteen. It consisted of a two-paragraph recollection of a cloudy morning he had spent sitting on the Joke's railroad tracks when he was eight years old.

He didn't live in Bello Gardens back then; his real introduction to it would not come for another three years. On the day he went to the railroad tracks, which still ran freight in 1977, it was just another place to play alone within walking distance of his house. He liked the tracks because he could run along the rails in a delirious balancing act and he could leave little things on them to be crushed by the occasional passing trains as he watched from a safe distance away, admiring the sheer length of those freight chains and their awesome power.

Charles Le Beth wrote in his thirties that he had the oddest thought as he sat there on the tracks, gazing off at the misty point where they vanished into one another at the horizon. He suddenly knew at age eight that when he had a son one day, that boy would grow up to become a train conductor. His own dreams of the future remained a mystery to him and his notes claim that he grew up never truly having any, yet those of his child were, if only for an instant, somehow clear as day.

He would never meet his autistic son Damon, and would in fact die months before the boy's mother gave birth to him. In looking back over one of the transcripts at the beginning of this book, however, I notice that Charles Le Beth took his hope for Damon's destiny as a train conductor and curiously made it his own for one very public moment, during the live taping of Here and Now on December 2, 2007. Whether this was just a meaningless mistake on his part or a sudden rise of primal memory exposing the humanity of a notoriously secretive man, I doubt anyone can really say. Split second glimpses into souls are all I have managed to find. Standing at the edge of Glen Elm where the wisps of the train tracks peek in a twenty-foot section through the dirt, you can feel how gone everything really is. Summer, winter, spring and fall keep burying it all deeper and deeper, so that in about one more decade, not even the hint of tracks will be visible, and the people in Glen Elm will still be thankful for all that they have, and Damon Le Beth will be thirty-one years old.

 

 

 

When I do get out of here maybe Ill take you to where I grew up, it was a lot better than where I was before I got in trouble. Its in Wolcottville. You should go there when youre a little older if you have time and see if maybe you want to live there, I think its better than being near a city, in a city theres lots of crime and you cant do things like walk near a river and play baseball anywhere you want. In the country you can sit down and just look at things and like the quiet. The more people that youre around the more crazy ideas get into your head too, remember that. Anytime you think you know whats right for other people or what theyre really about youre always going to be wrong. Thats the good thing about being alone. If you sometimes pretend that theres no one else in the whole world but you, and it feels nice, dont be sad about it. It would be happier that way.

—Convicted skinhead Andrew Gamble in a letter to his son Keith, sent from the Indiana State Penitentiary, March 19, 2012.