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39 Rings for 39 Years: Remembering The 50th Anniversary of MLK’s Assassination

39 rings of bells could be heard across the nation and internationally this Wednesday, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Andover participated in this ceremony by ringing the Bell Tower at precisely 7:05 pm. To remember how the news of King’s death ‘rippled’ across the country, bells were staggered in their tolling.

The ‘wave’ of tolling bells began at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee at 7:00 p.m, followed by ringings in several other states.

Through this event, Andover students and faculty remembered the life and legacy of King. Meka Egwuekwe ’91, board member of the National Civil Rights Museum, brought attention to event within the Andover community.

Students took the time to reflect on the movement that King started during his short lifetime and how it affects their lives today. Sadie Cheston-Harris ’20 commemorated King’s ambition and drive as well as the sacrifices he and his community made in striving for equality.

“MLK was an incredibly significant factor in the fight for freedom and equality during the Civil Rights Movement. His example of keeping our eyes on the prize and fighting peacefully and with dignity was monumental and showed the country the deep desire African Americans had for freedom and the sacrifices made to achieve their goal,” said Cheston-Harris.

Tulio Marchetti ’21 also reflected on how King influenced his life. Marchetti also questioned why this anniversary wasn’t as widely celebrated as other holidays.

“I think that it’s something that everyone should reflect on, because MLK was revolutionary towards civil rights and bringing everybody together. And because of that, I feel like the assassination of MLK doesn’t get as much hype as other holidays, other events. I think that it should be held at the same standard because of the importance of what MLK did in his time and because of that, I feel like the assassination of MLK is something that should always be remembered,” said Marchetti.

Rhea Chandran ’19 felt the connotations of sadness that came along with the anniversary but also the effects of King’s work on the Andover community as a whole.

“It is a heavy type of anniversary to look at, but I also think it’s really important that we as a community have reflected on it and taken it in terms of how we respond to diversity and how we affect the general culture of our school by being a very diverse school, and I think that this anniversary has helped us reflect on that,” said Chandran.

Marchetti also expressed a liking towards the bell tolls, feeling that the tolls represented the leadership qualities that King possessed.

“That’s creative. It’s a way for [Anover] to show [King] respect, you know. Because, I mean, I feel like most of the campus venerates him because he was a leader. 39 [age of King at assassination] and 39 bells. Well, 39 rings would be a perfect way to remind everybody of him,” said Marchetti.

Chandran and Cheston-Harris both echoed this sentiment of symbolism and cohesion regarding the the bells and how it was a reminder to observe King’s message of everlasting inclusion.

“The rolling of the bells are a powerfully symbolic way of illustrating how MLK’s strive for justice and peace will continue to ring on in our day to day lives, in the present, and in the future,” said Cheston-Harris.

“[The ripple effect] was a really interesting concept to think about because it’s a whole nation coming under this one anniversary. And I think that on our community, it could be hard on some individuals but I think that it was important that we recognize the anniversary,” said Chandran.