Friday, one year ago, a large crowd of people gathered at night under the lights in South Jersey to watch high school playoff football.
The Pleasantville Greyhounds hosted the Camden Panthers, a few miles from Atlantic City.
By the third quarter, the sound of gunfire rang out from the direction of the Pleasantville bleachers.
A 15-year-old suffered a graze wound, a 27-year-old was shot and seriously injured, and 10-year-old Micah Tennant was shot in the neck. He died days later.
New Jersey native Isaiah Green was 18 at the time. He attended the game with his grandfather and a friend. They escaped unharmed.
Now a student at Rowan University, Green, who is guided by his Christian faith, has written a first-hand account of that night called “Through My Eyes: Football, Faith, Fear, and Humility.”
He recently spoke with WHYY’s Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn.
Isaiah, it’s good to talk to you. Describe what that night started off feeling like.
It was very exciting because the game was really intense. The whole first half, it was only six nothing. At halftime, both teams came out really ready to play and everyone was just really excited because it was just a competitive and hard fought game.
During the game, something changes. You’re waiting for a call on the field, but instead you hear gunshots and you’re not sure what it is, maybe firecrackers at first. Tell us about that moment when things changed.
Things changed when you just hear these noises that are just going off, about eight of them. And, you know, the first thing is that they’re fireworks. But then I see people running and jumping over fences and hiding and screaming and crying. So then I knew it was gunshots and it just turned from excitement to fear and, you know, running to possibly save your life and hiding in, just now in survival mode.
Did it dawn on people kind of at the same time what was going on?
I think it really did because as soon as the second or third one went out, everybody started running. Something that was really frightening about it was that there were a lot of people there who weren’t scared. They live in the cities of Pleasantville or in the cities of Camden, and they just are used to gun violence. They didn’t hide. They didn’t try to get down. They just stood there and watched. And that was kind of frightening to know that there were people who were just used to being around that in their everyday lives.
How did you recognize that that was going on for some of the people around you?
Some people had just said it just was something that they were used to and they couldn’t really say they were necessarily scared. They were just worried about being there for other people.
Several people were shot and survived. A 10-year-old boy was shot and died days later. At the time of the shooting, what do you remember people saying about the little boy?
I remember there was a woman and people were covering her and she was saying that he was only 10 years old and she was crying and she was weeping and being just so sad. And I just remember a lot of people crying and I remember a lot of people that were just angry about that. Someone would just use this day as a day to carry out their own personal agendas. And it was just a night filled with mixed emotions.
Yeah. You dedicate in part this book to the young boy who was killed. His name is Micah. How do you incorporate him into your world now?
I incorporate him because he definitely, at 10 years old, had dreams and aspirations to do something. And so that could have been me at that game. Our roles could have been reversed. So I pushed harder knowing that God allowed me to share this story. So that way his name can never be forgotten. So everything I do, I always uplift his name and aspire to do great things. And in his name and in his honor.
You’re a Christian. Forgiveness is a very important part of your faith. And you do write about that, the forgiveness part. And you say it’s the hardest thing in the book for people to understand your line of thinking about forgiveness.
I think it’s very hard to understand because you look at the situation, there’s a 10-year-old boy that’s no longer living, unfortunately. There’s so many people who have been affected that are living, who aren’t even shot. That scripture talks about in many situations that Jesus was on the cross. And before he died, he asked his father to forgive them, the soldiers who were killing him. And it’s just a very hard concept to understand. But if you are a Christian and you are deeper into your faith, you understand that you can’t walk around and spread God’s love and have this hate and resentment in your heart for somebody.
Do you struggle because of what you witnessed that day?
I feel like it affects me, but in the more so, like maybe I say like a positive way. I feel like I kind of open up more and able to express myself and talk with my feelings a little bit more, not just with this, but just with everything in general.
Isaiah Green, thank you for sharing and writing this thoughtful book. It’s called, “Through My Eyes: Football, Fear, Faith and Humility.”
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