StoryCorps
8:11 am
Sun August 24, 2014

An Outcast Teen Attacked With Slurs, Fists, Gasoline And A Match

Originally published on Sun August 24, 2014 2:55 pm

When Darnell Moore was a teenager in the late 1980s, living in Camden, N.J., he didn't know he was gay — but he did know he was an outcast.

"At 13 I was a nerd," Moore tells his friend Bryan Epps, during a visit to StoryCorps OutLoud in New York. "I took such great pride in wearing dress pants and button-up shirts, unfortunate white socks like I was a preacher."

"My grandmother would send us to the store, and I hated going to the store because I know that somewhere between my grandmama's house and the store there would be somebody wanting to pick on me for some reason."

One day, Moore was returning from the store in broad daylight and saw a group of boys walking towards him. "I knew that something was going to happen," he says. "As they approached me they called me names — faggot, sissy — and they had a milk carton. I didn't know what it was filled with, but it spilled a bit. And it was gasoline."

Moore's next-door neighbor was one of the boys in the group. "He emptied the gasoline on me," Moore says. "I recall him attempting to light a match and it just wouldn't light. That happened about three times."

Moore's aunt came outside before the boys managed to light the match. "I just remember my aunt dragging me to the local hospital with gasoline in my eyes," Moore says. "And I smelled like that for, like, 24 hours."

But Moore says he wasn't angry — just embarrassed. "I was picked on in front of teachers, in front of adults, on streets, so I was used to it," he says. "And I don't know why it took me until adulthood to actually get in my head that that was literally somebody trying to end my life."

When Epps asks if he knows where those attackers are now, Moore says no.

"I tried to search for the one neighbor in particular who poured the gasoline on me," he says. "And it's so funny, you know, in recalling the story, even while the other guys were punching me, I was only focused on him — because, I think, I've always wanted his friendship. I just never imagined that a kid who knows your name who lives in the same neighborhood with you would want to do something like that."

"I wish I could have asked, 'Why would you want to light me on fire?' What did I do to him to make him want to do that?"

Audio produced for Weekend Edition Sunday by Nadia Reiman.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Today we're launching a new series here on WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY. You may already know about Story Corps. They record oral histories and conversations between loved ones and then archive them at the Library of Congress. They recently launched a new initiative called Out Loud which records the stories of the LGBTQ community.

To kick things off - Darnell Moore. When he was a teenager in the late 1980s, Darnell lived in Camden, New Jersey. Back then he didn't know that he was gay, but he did know he was an outcast. At Story Corps, Darnell told his friend, Bryan Epps, about growing up in his neighborhood. And a warning - you'll hear some disrespectful language.

DARNELL MOORE: At 13, I was a nerd. I took such great pride in wearing dress pants and button-up shirts, unfortunate white socks, like I was a preacher. And my grandmother would send us to the store. And I hated going to the store because I know that somewhere between my grandmom's house and the store would be somebody wanting to pick on me for some reason.

So at the time, I was coming from the store. It was broad daylight. And I see a group of boys walking towards me. And I knew that something was going to happen. As they approached me, they called me names - faggot, sissy. And they had a milk carton. I didn't know what it was filled with, but it spilled a bit. And it was gasoline.

My next-door neighbor was one of the young men. And he emptied the gasoline on me. I recall him attempting to light a match, and it just wouldn't light. That happened about three times. And by the time he tried to light the match again, my aunt had came outside. I just remember my aunt dragging me to the local hospital with gasoline in my eyes. And I smelled like that for, like, 24 hours.

I was never really angry. I just was embarrassed. You know, I was picked on in front of teachers, in front of adults on streets. So I was used to it. And I don't know why it took me until adulthood to actually get in my head that that was literally somebody trying to end my life.

BRYAN EPPS: Do you know where they are now?

MOORE: I don't. Actually I tried to search for the one neighbor, in particular, who poured the gasoline on me. And it's so funny, you know, in recalling a story - even while the other guys are punching me, I was only focused on him because I think I always wanted his friendship. I just never imagined that a kid who knows your name, who lives in the same neighborhood with you would want to do something like that.

I wish I could have asked why would you want to light me on fire? What did I do to make him want to do that?

WERTHEIMER: Darnell Moore speaking to Bryan Epps in New York. Darnell now mentors LGBTQ teens. Story Corps contacted Darnell's aunt who verified his story. That interview is part of Story Corps Out Loud recording the stories of the LGBTQ community. If there's somebody you would like to interview or if you'd would like to add your own story to the Library of Congress, visit storycorps.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.