My Experience at the George Floyd Memorial

Evelyn Pierson

The closer we got to the city, the more signs and boarded-up stores I saw.

Justice for George Floyd.

Black Lives Matter.

Those were the two most popular phrases I saw. The third most popular seemed to be the one that made me the saddest.

I can’t breathe.



When we finally got out of the car and began walking to the memorial, we saw a lot of people. All had masks. Some, like us, brought flowers.

Most brought nothing at all.

I gripped in my hands some flowers and a small note I had written. My chest was wound up tight and my jaw hurt from clenching it.

We went with our mom’s friend and her son. I liked her. She was the one who’d invited us to this. But I was too nervous to talk to her.

My mom and my dad were talking with her a bit. Mostly my mom, though. My dad was leading the way with my brother following him.

When we entered the area, you could tell, mostly because of the big bus blocking the road. Though the area was closed off to cars, it was later explained that the bus had mostly been placed there to stop rioters, and ended up remaining there.

The first thing I saw when entering was a large group gathered around a black man. The man was speaking in a loud voice that I could still barely hear. The one thing I focused on him the most was the fact that he had a pink teddy bear on his backpack. I felt that he was a good person, who seemed to care about people.



On the ground, all along the road, were names. Of black people killed by police officers. They were all different colors, all different names.

I looked at the names quietly. I was quiet for most of this. I couldn’t believe that so many people had died like this.

And these were the people who were big, who had made it onto television or social media. How many more people of color were being killed by police officers in these riots and in everyday life? How many people’s deaths were minor to the world, but major to their families?

I wondered how long it had taken someone to do this. I wondered when they decided to do this. I wondered where they’d gotten all the names from.

As we continued further, the number of people grew. I could hear music from somewhere.

Along the sides of the road were boarded up businesses. They had writing and graffiti and signs all over them.

Rest In Power.

Justice for George Floyd.

Black Lives Matter.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I stared determinedly at the ground. I didn’t want anyone to see that I was starting to cry.

The ground was covered in words too. Beneath the shuffling feet of people I could see words and shapes: hearts, the same phrases as before, handprints. It all was so… sad. Hurtful. But good.

The whole place and experience was oddly peaceful. Though there were a lot of people there, there was a sense of unity and mutual sadness running under everything in a deep current. People walked along, took some pictures, looked around. There was some talking, but I tuned most of it out without realizing.



When we finally came to the spot where he died, I felt like it was the hardest for me. You could tell we had arrived there by the abundance of flowers and signs and papers on the ground. The sheer amount of it all surprised me. I wondered how many people had been here. I wondered how much this street had been walked recently.

I wondered who had drawn or brought what. There were some beautiful pieces of art in there. The face of George Floyd stared out from almost everywhere. On walls, on canvas, on paper.

I watched as my brother put down his flowers. Then our friend’s son did. But I just stood there, frozen to the bone. I didn’t know what to do.

Why am I not moving? Just go put your things down. It’s okay. Plenty of people have done this. I tried to think, to convince myself that I was okay, trying to shove the feelings down until I was away from the faces of people who might see me cry.

I liked my mask. It protected me and hid my facial expression.



But now I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing at the moment. I wanted to turn around and tell my mom right there that I couldn’t do this, that I was starting to break down, that I wanted to curl up and cry because this happened and I didn’t know what to do.

“Well, go and put yours down.” my mom said, gesturing towards the things. The piles.

I seized up again. “I— I don’t know what—”

“Here, you can put your note inside the flowers, like this,” she said, taking the flowers and sliding my note into the bouquet. Then I took it and looked at her.

“Uh, where should I—”

“Anywhere,” she responded, waving a hand to emphasize all the space I could put my offering, my thing to say I’m sorry you died and Rest in Peace and I hope things get better, I hope you know you’re changing the world.

Quick as I could before I made this a bigger deal, I placed the flowers on top of some wilting ones. I wondered how long it would take before mine, too, were covered and forgotten.

As we continued, walking closer to where he had actually died, I noticed more signs and more people and more cameras.

Say His Name.


I can’t breathe.

Then we came to it.



The area was blocked off with orange fencing, but I could still see into the area. I saw an outline- not all of it, just the legs. The rest was blocked off by people.

“That’s where he died—where they held him down,” my dad whispered to me, pointing. “They painted the outline of an angel.”

I looked, and felt like all the emotions were coming out. I desperately tried to stamp them down, settling for a mute nod as I looked through the people.

As I stepped away near Mom, and Dad began talking to Mom, I began to feel all the emotions leak out. I started to cry, which only increased when Mom hugged me. Stop crying, what are you doing, stop crying.

I tried to push everything down, but it was mostly out already. I now had a stuffy nose and tears in my eyes.

I hate crying in public.

I wiped my tears as Mom spoke to me. “It’s okay to be sad. I know this is hard. And it is sad,” she said gently. I nodded, staring at the ground and stuffing my hands into my pockets.

“Let’s go see the mural they made,” my mom suggested.

We all nodded and went.

The mural was just to the left of where George Floyd had died. When we turned the corner, we found more flowers and signs. These were bigger signs, and it was explained that many of the signs had been from when peaceful protesting had been going on. I stared at some of the signs, saying the same things I’d been seeing everywhere.

The mural was small, but it was good. It was meaningful.



The names of what I assumed to be people—black people—killed by police officers were behind George Floyd’s face. Probably not just from Minnesota.

At least, I hoped not just from Minnesota.

Behind the mural, there were a bunch of tents. They had food and water, for people who needed this.

It almost made me want to laugh, how this, of all things, made people bind together. Why did someone have to die for people to realize black lives matter? Why did suffering have to take place?



After that, we looked at another small memorial. This one had a heaping of things as well, and I once again thought about the numbers of people that came through here. Then we began to slowly walk back. Slowly make our way back to our cars.

I was sweating like crazy, and underneath my mask was still wet from my runny nose. As I looked around, I once again heard someone talking to people. My mom smiled just a little, then turned to me.

“Every once and awhile, someone’ll come through and start talking,” she said,

“Start preaching,” Dad said from behind me.

Mom nodded. “Start preaching,” she confirmed. “Plenty of famous black people have come here over the days.”

My thoughts were drawn to the day when Mom told me the entire world knew about what had happened, how it was the top headline on most news.

My thoughts were drawn to how my stomach plummeted as I once again realized the world was so, so cruel and I was just a twelve-year-old kid who knew nothing.



I miss my cousins.

I couldn’t help but think about my cousins, who are both black. While they weren’t siblings, they were my cousins. And I had the smallest, deepest worry set in a dark corner of my mind that something awful might happen to them one day, especially my male cousin who was the same age as me. Growing up with them, I never thought about the fact that people might think differently of us because of our skin color. We certainly didn’t care.

But apparently the world did.



When we were back to our cars, I could faintly hear “Amazing Grace” being played on a trumpet in the distance. I smiled at the ground. I loved that song. And I was glad someone was playing it at the memorial.



The experience was good.

What happened was awful and tragic, but I’m hoping—I’m praying—that this will be the tipping point for a permanent change for the better.


About Evelyn Pierson
Evelyn Pierson is an 8th grader from New Market, Minnesota. She loves adventures and exploring new places. An avid reader and aspiring writer, Evelyn is interested in a wide variety of genres. In her free time, Evelyn writes, draws, and takes her Bernedoodle, Ellie, for walks.


My Experience at the George Floyd Memorial Copyright © 2021 by Evelyn Pierson. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book