The sirens blared, but all I heard was the sound of my heart thumping as I ran down the unruly hallways of Malcolm High School. Other teachers were urging straggling students into their classrooms and out of danger. I was on a mission. I’d left my co-teachers with our class and rushed through the halls. I had to know that Benz was safe. I wanted to believe—and so I did—that he had nothing to do with the riot that was tearing through the halls of this New York City high school. I would not rest until I knew that he was not one of the injured students. The thought of Benz being one of the instigators of the uprising, the third that year, ruefully crossed my mind. Please be in your Spanish class today, Benz. …

Teenagers were rushing through the halls screaming uncontrollably. Sirens roared and announcements demanded that the hallways be cleared. Security guards with walkie-talkies ran up and down the halls marshaling students into classrooms. Through the windows that flanked the corridors, one could clearly see down all eight floors to the street where a pool of police cars enclosed the school like a perilous moat.

As I hurried down the Foreign Language hallway, I heard some students screaming to me, but their words rushed around me like flurrying snowflakes melting before they ever contacted my skin. Wrangling my way through the sea of madness, I managed to find Benz’s fourth-period class and banged my tightened fist on the classroom door.