On a warm Tuesday night in September, 120 people, nearly all African-American, fill the echoing auditorium at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn. ”No Weapons Allowed, Persons Subject to Scanning” warns a faded sign at the door, and the words have particular resonance here tonight. The special guests for this evening are Michael and Vonda Shoels, the parents of 18-year-old Isaiah, one of the 12 students slaughtered at Columbine High School six months ago by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
Surrounded by their new crop of advisers — the kind of ubiquitous pod that often sprouts around average people who are thrust into the news — the Shoelses walk past that sign and onto the stage. Michael, wearing a Western hat and boots with his dark suit, waves heartily to the cheering crowd. Vonda, in a simple pantsuit, stares at the floor. She looks tiny next to her solid husband, and very sad.
The Shoelses, whose son was the only black victim of the attack, have come to this city and to this meeting at the invitation of the Rev. Al Sharpton, who further warms the simmering room with a lusty chant of ”No Justice, No Peace.” Then it is Michael’s turn at the microphone. Before April 20, before Columbine, Michael Shoels was a small-business owner who had never given a full-blown rafters-shaking speech. In his new life as his son’s avenger he hungrily seeks the spotlight, and has traveled to Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Alabama and now New York. As he speaks, his voice and his emotions rise. Soon he is screaming, his words garbled but his vehemence and his anguish still clear. READ MORE