Saturday, October 15, 2016

the last book I ever read (Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy, excerpt three)

from Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson:

The prisoners knew that the hostages were all that stood between them and what they believed would be a bloody assault on the prison. Despite the bravado they had displayed in their discussions with prison officials throughout the day, the men in D Yard were also terrified. They were not at all sure they could trust Schwartz to get them an injunction against reprisals and they worried mightily about the sharpshooters that the NYSP had been placing on the cell block roofs above them. For this reason, as one prisoner explained, “most of us slept right out there in the yard.” At least out in the open they’d know if an attack was starting.

Despite the sense of foreboding, there were moments of levity and, for some, even a feeling of unexpected joy as men who hadn’t felt the fresh air of night for years reveled in this strange freedom. Out in the dark, music could be heard—“drums, a guitar, vibes, flute, sax, [that] the brothers were playing.” This was the lightest many of the men had felt since being processed into the maximum security facility. That night was in fact a deeply emotional time for all of them. Richard Clark watched in amazement as men embraced each other, and he saw one man break down into tears because it had been so long since he had been “allowed to get close to someone.” Carlos Roche watched as tears of elation ran down the withered face of his friend “Owl,” an old man who had been locked up for decades. “You know,” Owl said in wonderment, “I haven’t seen the stars in twenty-two years.” As Clark later described this first night of the rebellion, while there was much trepidation about what might occur next, the men in D Yard also felt wonderful, because “no matter what happened later on, they couldn’t take this night away from us.”

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