Nov. 30 -- Mom lost it as we drove past Woodlawn Cemetery, breaking down and sobbing once again. Buried in Woodlawn is her oldest child and my oldest sister, Barbara Noland. But Mom has passed here many times since we buried Barbara back in February.
"I wave and say 'Hi Barbara,' as I ride by," she told me more than once this year. But today is different. We're riding in a limousine from Gary P. March Funeral Home. In front of us rides the hearse carrying the coffin of my mother's youngest child and my youngest brother, Tyrone Kane.
Nov. 25 -- Tyrone woke this Monday morning not knowing it would be the last day of his life. After a falling out with his live-in girlfriend, he bunked with a friend in a rooming house in Easton. He had lived there the past two years. Our older sister Carolyn urged him to move there to escape the violence and drugs of Baltimore's treacherous streets. But his struggle against his crack addiction went with him. The new world order, at least for America, is that there is no safe haven from crack cocaine.
About 2: 40 p.m., Tyrone is near the corner of Port and West streets in Easton, a notorious place -- known for drug dealing and violence -- by this quiet town's standards. He's talking to a woman named Inez, who lives in an apartment nearby. They talked often, Inez would tell me and my surviving sisters, Carolyn and Margaret, later. Tyrone had impressed her as a nice, easy-going guy. She had even extracted a promise from him to go to church with her.
It was around two hours later that Inez heard the shouting. Tyrone and a man police and Inez identified as Tyrone's buddy were fighting. Cpl. Marshall Bailey of the Easton Police Department said a witness told him he broke up the fight, which later resumed. At some point in the fracas my youngest brother's "buddy" pulled out a knife and stabbed him once in the left side of the chest.
Tyrone ran across the street and slumped to the ground, blood covering his shirt. Inez ran to him and prayed over him while his life slowly slipped from him.
"In the name of Jesus," she whispered at the moment she knew he had died.
Nov. 30 -- Mom is under control now, telling God she understands if He chose to take her oldest and youngest children in the same year. I'm sitting in the back seat behind my sisters and between my brother Michael and my nephew Ernest. I'm not in a particularly religious mood. I don't look at it as God taking my youngest brother. The street violence so endemic to America and the scourge of young black males took his life. I've written about this violence in the past and insisted that it's caused by us, not white racism. Now it's claimed my own brother, and I'm hoping God is as pissed off about this situation as I am.
Mom is being a little too charitable, a little too Christ-like for my taste. She tells us we should try to forgive the man who murdered our brother, that she was told he had a rough upbringing in Easton.
How heartbreaking, I think to myself. Ruth Kane Young's three sons grew up in the roughest parts of Baltimore, where our manhood was challenged almost from birth. We cleaned clocks and had our clocks cleaned in an effort to survive the Lexington Terrace and Murphy Homes projects, along with Brice Street and Schroeder Street and East 22nd Street. None of her sons grew up to go around sticking knives in people. I'll be damned if I was going to feel any pity for the scamboogah who killed Tyrone. Certainly not on the basis that he had a hard time.
"Who the hell hasn't?" I said to myself.
I'm trying to keep my anger under control. The tears haven't come yet. At St. Ambrose Church my sisters read from the Bible during the funeral. Father John Pfannenstiel delivers the eulogy and says that drugs and drug addiction are killing our society.
Carolyn offers words of comfort and Michael pays his tribute. Both say good morning to those assembled. Then it's my turn.
"I'm not going to say 'good morning' because I find nothing good about this morning," I begin. "Nor am I here to offer words of comfort. I am here to talk about justice. And I will see that justice is done in this case. I'm going to personally see to it that the man who murdered my brother does the maximum amount of jail time allowed by law. I've probably cried less than my other family members today. My anger is holding back my tears. My tears can't help my brother now. But oh, how my anger is going to."
"Father John talked about how drug addiction is killing America. He neglected to mention America's other great addiction: our addiction to violence. We love to kill each other. The Bible says quite clearly 'Thou shalt not kill.' It's the least ambiguous of God's commandments and the one this society finds hardest to keep."
Dec. 3 -- Carolyn, Margaret and I are in the Talbot County state's attorney's office. Jean Webb, the victim-witness coordinator for the office, is doing her best to comfort us. I explain to her that we don't want to hear the words "plea bargain" in the case of the man who murdered my brother. She says that Scott Patterson, the state's attorney, only plea bargains if there is a problem with the case. Talbot County and Easton take a dim view of murder.
"This isn't Baltimore," she says. Indeed it isn't. Easton is one of several small Maryland towns I would go to when I want to escape Baltimore's nastiness. I'm still shocked that Tyrone survived Baltimore's mean streets only to be stabbed to death in a two-homicide-a-year-town like Easton.
Nov. 29 -- Michael and I have just completed the funeral arrangements at Gary P. March. We go in to view our brother's body, the first members of our family to see him since he was murdered.
Michael weeps openly as he runs his hands along Tyrone's coat.
"This is the suit I bought him for Barbara's funeral," he mutters. My tears still haven't come. As I look at my brother's body my thoughts turn to July 29, 1960, the day he was born. Barbara tells me and Michael we have a new baby brother named Tyrone Matthew Kane. Michael and I rejoice. We already had three sisters and were hoping for another brother. Now we were three brothers, just like the Cartwrights. Except of course we had no money.
At King Memorial Park a Mr. Dunbar takes us to the stretch of land where Tyrone's grave will be dug. We can stay and see the coffin lowered into the ground, he tells us.
"Not many people know that," he adds. "And most don't ask."
Nov. 30 -- Michael and I have decided to stay to see our brother's coffin lowered into the ground at King Memorial Park. There's no way we're going to let perfect strangers carry him to his final resting place. Not today. Michael and I -- along with four cemetery workers -- place his coffin on some slats of a larger black coffin. The workers then lower the smaller coffin inside the larger one and place on the lid. The larger coffin is then lowered into the ground.
The day is overcast, the gray clouds adding to the dreariness of the day. It starts to drizzle as a bulldozer shovels the dirt over my brother's coffin. I stand in front of the grave, my fists clenched, my chest heaving, and ultimately lose my fight to hold back my tears of grief and rage.
Pub Date: 12/08/96