“When they dropped him to the ground, it felt like two angels had lifted my body up and laid me down” – Keshia Thomas
Those words are from Keshia Thomas, then 18-years-old in 1996, as she threw herself on top a man believed to be a white supremacist affiliated with the KKK, protecting him from an angry mob.
A true story:
In a series on kindness, the BBC recounted the incredible moment in June of that year, when the Ku Klux Klan decided to hold a rally at the city hall building in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The town, predominantly Liberal, progressive and multicultural, counteracted by coming out in large numbers to protest the rally – 300 strong according to reports. Thomas was there in solidarity with the protesters. Only 17 determined Klansmen showed up that day.
Someone In the crowd of anti-clan protesters, spotted a man in their midst decked out in KKK regalia complete with an SS tattoo and a confederate flag shirt. The group, including Thomas, converged on him.
The crowd pounced on the clansman, pushing him to the ground, kicking him and hitting him with the sticks of their protest posters. It was at that moment that Thomas separated herself from the mob and threw herself on top the man to protect him. She described the moment as otherworldly, “When they dropped him to the ground, it felt like two angels had lifted my body up and laid me down,” she remarked.
Photographer Mark Brunner, who captured Keshia Thoma’s true act of altruism in these series of photos, says what she did still inspires people to this day;
“She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her,” he said. “Who does that in this world?”
In 1996, I know what I wouldn’t have done. I may not have participated in beating down the hapless clansmen, but I sure as hell wouldn’t have risked my neck trying to save his ass either. At least that’s what I tell myself. But the Human Spirit…well, she is a wild, crazy, wonderous thing, no?
disappointingly, Thomas has never heard from the man she saved, but she did once meet a member of his family. Months later, someone came up to her in a coffee shop and said thanks. “What for?” she asked. “That was my dad,” the young man replied.
Today, Thomas continues to work to make a difference, by doing a simple kindness each and every day,
“I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me,” she says. “The biggest thing you can do is just be kind to another human being. It can come down to eye contact, or a smile. It doesn’t have to be a huge monumental act.”
Hey, I’m no saint. But I do believe if the Human Race has any chance at of surviving the next 17 years, it wouldn’t be because of any enactment of Congress, or the election of any official to the Whitehouse.
Not because of any preaching from pastors or priests in church. No motivational speaker or award-winning novel or film.
What saves us, will be the random acts of extraordinary courage and kindness performed by average, everyday people like Keshia Thomas… and you… and me.
You know I’m right ; )