It was a beautiful afternoon on April 3, 1989; Orioles Opening Day at Memorial Stadium. I attended the game with a co-worker, Scott Becker, and a business acquaintance, Jeff Funk. The Orioles had just beaten the Red Sox, 5-4. Fans were enjoying a victory on the way to their vehicles.
We were waiting for the light at 36th Street and Alameda to cross and get to our cars, when we heard, “Stop!” A father in distress was yelling to his six-year-old son, who had just broken the grasp of his hand and ran into busy traffic. The son obeyed and stopped; in the middle of the road. A car hit him and he flew from the front of the vehicle to the rear (described as 30 feet into the air) and slid for another 20 feet after landing. Everyone was horrified. I had never seen anything like it. The child laid unconscious in the road and we all thought he was dead.
His mother was screaming hysterically (what mother wouldn’t?). His father was trying to calm her, while attending to his son. I, like a fool, ran over to the vehicle that hit him, and shrieked at the driver, “Get out of the car!! Get out!!” I was convinced he had been speeding, because that’s what I saw. The driver was obviously distraught, thinking he had just killed a boy. But, I was undaunted in my vigilantism. My friends pulled me away, and we all tried to collect ourselves. It was terrifying.
I tearfully observed the father trying to keep everyone in tune with the situation, while thinking his son had just died. He looked athletic, a big fellow, leading me to believe he was an athlete attending the game and seemed familiar to me, but with all the commotion, I couldn’t recall who he might be. The police came, told me to go away, and we walked to our cars. I immediately called my wife and told her what had happened and asked her to check the news. On my way home, she called to tell me the boy was Al Gore’s son.
At the time he wasn’t quite as famous as today. Whatever your political philosophy may be, and however Al Gore fits into your political spectrum, in this case he was just a father; scared to death he had lost his son. No one ever wants to deal with that. The internet, Vice Presidency, 2000 election fiasco and global warming were all in his future, but at this point he was just praying for the recovery of his child.
We tend to think celebrities are beyond heartbreak. Their lives are not like ours. Those whose children die before them are not our concern, because we think they are somehow surreal and unapproachable. But, it happens to people in all walks of life, and we shouldn’t lose sight of how vulnerable we are to mishaps and disease. Albert Arnold Gore, III survived, thanks to the attending physicians at Johns Hopkins, but he very well could have died. Most of us wouldn’t have even thought about it. If I had not been there, I wouldn’t either.
I like Al Gore, and am sure it is because of this particular experience. I also like that he is a Vietnam Veteran. Many people give him grief because of his liberal leanings, but I can’t get past this accident. No matter what he does or says, there will always be a spot in my heart for April 3, 1989. He dealt with it well, but it could have been the end of him if his son had not pulled through.
I only hope none of you have to suffer the loss of a child.
Bake My Fish
4 thoughts on “April 3, 1989 – Al Gore’s Worst Nightmare”
Sometimes we forget these people are human.
My best friend’s only son, who is a scholar, sweet and innocent (as one can be these days) was held up at gunpoint to his ribs, while at work at the Arbutus Movie Theatre. Then was told to open the safe, lie down and wait 10 minutes.
Thank God the robber got away. She and I were out that night.
The point is how quickly her life would have changed. Poof. Made us cry.