Lane DeGregory's 3 favorite Lane DeGregory stories from 2013
Because I asked her.
ST. PETERSBURG — As soon as they pulled into the church lot, Davion changed his mind.
"Miss! Hey, Miss!" he called to his caseworker, who was driving. "I don't want to do this anymore."
In the back seat, he hugged the Bible someone had given him at the foster home. "You're going to be great," Connie Going said.
Outside St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, she straightened his tie. Like his too-big black suit, the white tie had been donated. It zipped up around the neck, which helped. No one had ever taught Davion, 15, how to tie one.
"Are you ready?" Going asked. Hanging his head, he followed her into the sanctuary.
This had been his idea. He'd heard something about God helping people who help themselves. So here he was, on a Sunday in September, surrounded by strangers, taking his future into his sweaty hands.
ST. PETERSBURG — His alarm beeps at 3:30 a.m., drowning out the talk radio that keeps him company all night. He rolls over slowly and prays:
"Please, Lord, give me the strength to get up."
It takes a half-hour, sometimes longer, but eventually he hobbles to the kitchen to make tea. And three days a week, no matter how the old man feels, he steps into the cotton pants with the torn right knee and pulls on the white shirt with "Bama Sea Products" stitched above his pacemaker.
Then he wraps a paper towel around a piece of fried chicken, packs it into his Coleman cooler, and leaves his house. By now it is 5:45 a.m. The two-block walk to the bus takes him 20 minutes, his tiny steps scraping the sidewalk.
Four hours after he wakes, he arrives at work.
"Morning, Mr. Newton!" a moustached man calls.
"Hello, Cap'n!" he says, raising his hand. "Beautiful day."
To him, every day is. Newton Murray — everyone calls him Mr. Newton — is 99 years old, making him the oldest employee of Bama seafood and probably among the oldest anywhere. But he has no thoughts of retirement. After he puts away his cooler, he will set to work tidying up Bama's vast parking lots.
If you saw him there, you might think he was just holding up a broom. But it's really the other way around.
JACKSONVILLE — On the morning of the day she lost everything, her 5-year-old missed his bus. Her two youngest children were sleeping, so she told her 12-year-old son to watch them while she drove the kindergartener to school.
She would be right back.
Biannela Susana was 25, the mother of four kids, and a recent widow. She had been in Jacksonville only a few months. She didn't know many people, didn't have friends or family nearby who could help her.
She dropped her son at kindergarten. Stopped at the bank.
On her way home, her 12-year-old called, upset: His little brother, he said, had fallen off the bunk bed.
Susana ran into the apartment and found her 2-year-old curled on the bottom bunk, unconscious, a thread of blood trickling from his nose. With a baby wipe, she dabbed it away and kept begging him, "Wake up, David. Please, please wake up."
She changed his diaper and his blue pajamas. He didn't move. She poured alcohol onto a cloth and held it under his nostrils. No reaction. She pressed a bag of ice against his nose to slow the swelling. He didn't even flinch.
"What really happened?" she asked the 12-year-old, Cristian.
"I told you," Cristian said.
Susana had to know it was a lie. She knew Cristian's history, knew what he was capable of. It seems obvious now what she should have done. And inexcusable that she didn't do it.
But as David lay hurt, she thought not just of him, but of Cristian. For half her life, since she was a child herself, Cristian had been her whole world.
So that morning, Susana sank onto the bed beside her baby, logged onto her laptop and tried to save both of her sons.
The date was March 14, 2011. At 10:54 a.m., she Googled: when+someone+gets+knocked+out.
She spent another four hours on the computer before she took David to the hospital.