Carson Lake, 1950-1986 | Gabriel Mambo

Sam Forson via Pexels

Carson Lake always reflected the sky, like evidence of a condition. When it opened in 1950, the lake was a healthy, clear cerulean. Crowds of people were spread out across the beach’s white sands. Patrons used the wet sand to build sandcastles or mold body casts around one another.

A black boy named Darrell Rodgers went missing in July of 1968. He was found two days later, hanging from a nearby tree in the forest next to Carson Beach. People rioted in Midtown later that night. Storefronts crumbled in the heat of merciless flames. Dark colored faces chanted Dr. King’s name.

In 1971, the three white men acquitted of Darrell’s murder were scattered across the beach’s shores. Their throats were ripped open by unknown blades. The city closed the beach down indefinitely after another rebellion ravaged Midtown. Twenty people were injured on that night. Three more bodies had to be buried.

The city unlocked and tore down the chain link fences in 1979. Officials believed the trouble had passed. When swimming season started, light skinned groups huddled together on the beach like snow banks on a mountain’s peak. Darker denizens turned their backs to them, though they always looked over their own shoulders with 1968’s fire in their eyes. A silence swept over the beach.

A sixteen-year-old girl was raped at the beach in 1981 and they never found the culprit. When asked about what the assailant looked like, the girl only mentioned shadows, shapes and grunts.

Another carcass floated across the lake in May of 1986. On the day it was discovered, the waters were a dreary grey. The sky reflected its condition, blanketed by sullen grey clouds. Shortly after the body was drawn from the water, it began to rain. The city closed the lake for good.

Gabriel Mambo is a substitute teacher living in Jackson Heights, New York. He’s previously been published in Red Fez. His Twitter is @GabeMambo and Instagram is @gabrielmambo

Leave a Reply