Forgiveness: The Jermaine Ewell Story
This story hits closest to home for us, our town, our friends and our family. The decision was made for me to handle it solo (and to pretend that she wasn’t kinda terrified to do so). It was June 2nd 1991 and with school ending and former Lawrence High School students returning from their first year of college, it only seemed right that a party was in order. The Lawrence football team had a fantastic year thanks in large part to Jermaine Ewell, a starting defensive linebacker and offensive fullback at Lawrence. He was also a track team sprinter who was nicknamed “Streak” because of his speed. Everyone we spoke to absolutely adored Jermaine. He was a good guy, a genuinely nice person who looked after his sister and his neighborhood and just did his best.
He, like many of his friends, went to a house party in Atlantic Beach, where the alcohol flowed and emotions ran high. At one point, a former classmate who Jermaine had been friendly with, Shannon Siegel, became angry that Jermaine was talking to a girl who Shannon had once dated. There was a racial slur used — the worst racial slur — and the other kids at the party shut that shit down. Everyone will tell you that what happened at the party, and the atrocity that followed after, was not about racism. At least, not until Al Sharpton showed up and tried to make it about racism.
This is a story about a brutal attack that changed Jermaine’s promising future as an athlete and ruined Shannon’s life as well. But, in the end, when I was thinking about how to title this, how to describe it, how to tell the story with all of the complexity it deserves — I was left with Jermaine’s overwhelming ability to forgive Shannon. And I would like to think that in the end, both Jermaine and Shannon were able to find some sort of peace.
I hope those of you who contributed to this story feel that your words were heard and respected, and as always, we welcome feedback, positive or negative. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and let us know how we did, what we missed, and anything else you need to get off your chest after listening to this episode.