I learned to swim in the Charlottesville, Virginia, public schools. My teacher was a giant, gregarious man named Mr. Byers of whom I was more than a little intimidated and a lot in awe. I can still remember the firm but caring way he comforted us as we watched the Challenger explosion live on a small television in his poolside office. In his main job as a lifeguard, Mr. Byers had demonstrated the same care; he had been struck by lightning on multiple occasions while trying to get swimmers out of pools during storms. Yet in the 1970s and 80s Charlottesville, in which both he and I lived, there were many swimming pools to which Mr. Byers, who was African-American, was not allowed or welcome.
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