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Tank Man MAG
My heart stopped. Time seemed to, too, as a man with a shopping bag in each hand stepped in front of the monstrous metallic beasts as they rumbled down Tiananmen Square.
I glanced at the people around me. I shuddered. Their eyes were like glass, intent only on the man holding back the serpentine line of war machines.
“What is he doing?” a woman asked.
In my peripheral vision I saw the young man next to her say nothing, his mouth agape. Everyone around me was equally shocked. We had all experienced horror here. Many of my fellow protesters had been slaughtered by soldiers and policemen.
The formation of tanks, held back by a single man, rumbled like growling beasts. I fought against my knees, which were trembling violently. They threatened to knock me off my feet. It was as if the concrete beneath my feet rocked from a thunderous quake beneath the surface of the Earth.
I wanted to yell at the man standing in front of the metallic monsters to get away. But a spark I hadn't felt in years ignited my very core. Hope. Not since the police killed my parents for speaking against the government had I felt anything but terror. Constant, never-ending fear.
I jumped, startled as gunfire crackled from somewhere close by. But I held my ground, unable to pry my eyes from the man. My feet were rooted in place.
“Why are you here?” the man yelled. “You have done nothing but create misery! My city is in chaos because of you!”
It was impossible to know how many seconds ticked by as the man remained in front of the tanks. I felt myself exhale as the first tank began to rumble a path around the man. Then, I covered my mouth as he leaped back into the tank's path, and swung the bag in his hand at it. I shook, tears streaming down my cheeks. Every tear was for the man standing up to the giant. The government.
“Get out of the way!” one of the women next to me said.
I held my breath as the tank proceeded to drive around the man again. The man followed its path, blocking it. The tank drove left, and the man followed. It swiftly headed right, the man following. He was dancing with death.
The beast ground to a halt. For a moment the man was as still as a statue. I nearly screamed as he suddenly ran forward and began to climb on the tank.
Don't! Get down from there! They're going to shoot you! Even if he could hear my thoughts, I knew he would not listen to them. He was too strong. A hero.
My body rocked back and forth. I felt like I was about to lose consciousness. My vision was hazy through the waterfall of tears. The man had climbed onto the tank's lid. He pounded on it.
Get out of my city! You are not welcome here! I imagined the words he was saying to the murderer inside the beast. But the murderer was only a puppet under the control of a different master. Still, something had compelled him to stop. Maybe he wasn't completely lost.
I exhaled again as the man hopped off the tank. My tears had not ceased.
“That was the most …” someone next to me said.
“I am so glad I joined this gathering,” another said.
“No!” I shouted as the man ran alongside the tank as it plowed into the square, a cloud of gray exhaust in its wake. In kangaroo-like bounds, he blocked its path.
A man in a bicycle pedaled next to the man. The bicyclist turned to the heroic man and spoke to him. Someone was finally urging him out of death's path. The faint patter of footfalls sounded from somewhere close by. I turned to the noises and gasped.
A group of four men rushed to the hero. One, wearing a blue shirt, grabbed him roughly. I trembled as they walked him away from the tanks, holding his head down by the back of his neck. I gritted my teeth in anger. That move was typical of the police. Another man in a blue shirt waved for the tanks to proceed down the square.
I watched the hero being led away. Tears of mourning streamed from my eyes. Deep down, I knew he would never be heard from again. But I would not allow his story to be forgotten. I only wished that someone somehow captured the moment. And, for the world's sake, that the police not get their hands on this piece of history.