I was 15 when Moshe died.
When I think about my sophomore year in high school, I don't remember dances or concerts or anything like that, I remember that weird feeling I had like everyone around me was dying. I went to nine funerals that year. Two friends died of medical reasons, three committed suicide, two family members passed away, and two were killed by gunfire in the town where I grew up. While every single one of those people could earn a dozen pages in the story of my life, the one that I still think about most often happened today, February 17th, but back in 1995.
Let me back this thang up a second. I was a perpetually grounded teenager. I spent my time outside of school (or in the bathroom inside of the school) either playing my guitar, reading Michael Creighton novels, smoking cigarettes, or listening to music. Yet I somehow managed to get myself grounded almost instantly after my sentences were lifted. I'd like to think that my dad grounding me for a week for being 5 minutes late coming home at night is the reason I'm fucking early for everything now, but I was grounded pretty much for two years straight.
All of my friends in my class knew I was constantly on lock down at home that year. One specific person that knew of my house arrest plight was a senior basketball ninja and quite possibly the most popular person I've ever met named Moshe Rogers. Every day in the lunch line he'd cut in front of everyone and say hi to them as he scooted between them and people loved him for it. Well he got in the habit of asking me if I was still grounded and every day the answer was the same. "Of fucking course."
On February 17th, 1995, during lunch, Moshe did two things I'll never forget. First, I asked for a dime to have enough loot to buy a Steak'Um, which was a highly processed delicious motherfucking high school lunch delicacy. Moshe gave me a dollar. A dollar at the high school lunch check out counter meant the difference between greasy tater sticks and TWO Steak'Ums. After he told me to forget about paying him back for the dollar, he asked if I was still grounded, to which I responded "Of fucking course", but this time he countered with "Well me and my brother will have to come break you out after the game tonite."
I probably said something like "Whatever", but just the idea of a dude you looked up to saying he'd come break you out the crib when you're grounded all the time, well I never forgot that.
Moshe wasn't just magnetic and fun to be around and amazing with kids and talented on the basketball court and loved by the ladies and friends with everybody, he was one of the few people I knew at that age that I considered thoughtful. Anyone can be well liked and good at a sport, but to connect with nearly every person you meet in a way that will not only force them to remember you, but to remember even little details about you? Moshe was destined for greatness. But Moshe was already great at everything.
The basketball team had an away game that night and after being dropped off at our high school to collect their cars, Moshe was driving his brother Marchel and a friend of ours named Ray home. Some guy on a corner saw a dark car on a dark street filled with, well, dark guys, and he shot Moshe in the head as he drove past. Moshe's car ended up plowing into the wall of a house a few doors down from our school.
February 17th, 1995, Moshe was shot.
February 18th, 1995, my sister ran into my room waking me up yelling and sobbing, and I looked at the clock and saw it was 7:40am. As I rubbed my eyes and looked back at the clock it was 7:41am. (I never realized how poetic it was that I remembered the time change from minute to minute, and I've discussed it with a few people, but Moshe's basketball number at home games was 40, for away games it was 41. Ever since then, I see little nuances of life like a movie, and this was one of the first that I still get chills over.) I ran downstairs to follow her and saw the front page of the paper announcing what had happened less than 12 hours ago. I called my neighbor and best friend Andy and we got into his car and drove towards Chicago. Nearly the entire high school showed up at Loyola Hospital outside of Chicago to wait on 'She. I only saw a glimpse of him from the hallway as I gave his brother Marchel a hug, but it was the last time I saw him, and I remember every fucking detail of that 2 second hug and what I saw over Marchel's shoulder as I guiltily looked into the hospital room.
On February 19th, 1995, Moshe passed away, and in the hours after, he managed to save the lives of a half dozen people or so, as well as give sight to two more through donating his organs.
On February 20th, 1995, I wrote the only song that ever really mattered in my life with my friend and drummer Jon Allison right next to me in my living room. A few hours later we connected with our singer and vocalist Dan Brooks to finalize it. And a few months later we recorded that song in our first real recording studio experience. We got 500 cassettes duped, my friend Matt Arch designed the cassette label and cover and got em printed, and a group of us sat around labeling these things for hours. We sold a few copies, and gave away hundreds more. The local newspaper did a write up on us, never really mentioning our music, but rather the intention behind it. I spent the next ten years of my life writing Moshe's initials MJR on nearly everything I owned, from guitars to cars, to random phone booths in Utah when I moved to California three years later.
Moshe's death did a lot to inspire me in the months and years after, in that I didn't necessarily feel that I needed music in my life as much as much as I felt the need to be a part of other people's lives. I evolved from doing things for selfish reasons into the guy I am today because I felt compelled to see people happy, and if that happiness came at the expense of me, or because of something I said or wrote, or even played on my guitar, well then I've done a service and can feel accomplished.
People always rely on the bullshit "It's your experiences that make you who you are", but it really has nothing to do with fucking experiencing anything, rather it's always someone. Experiences aren't experiences without a person who you experienced something with. Some person made an impact on you, whether you believe it or not, and you're kind of left holding the bag that that person left in your possession. You can either hide the muthafucker, or share that fucking bag with every fucking person you come across.
Moshe Jamil Rogers, I'm fillin' the fucking bag son. I'm sharin' the fucking bag.
I'm also sharing a horrible rip of the song from 1995.
If you can't get that player to work, here is the download link.