BLOOMINGTON — The two brothers shared a moment that day.
Martiece Arrington, now a recent graduate from SIU in Carbondale, remembers July 7, 2009, as the day he finally became the older brother that he wanted to be — someone that 10-year-old Travell could look up to, although they were just a year apart in age.
They were riding bikes that afternoon, Martiece standing on the back of Travell’s bike.
Their moment came when Travell pedaled down a hill in Bloomington, his voice at an almost "squeal" from fear, brother Martiece guiding him to slow down.
“It was a happy feeling, like, ‘OK, I’m finally becoming this older brother, I’m finally allowing him to become a big boy,’” Martiece remembers today. “As a big brother, you always shield your younger brother. In that moment, I felt I was finally letting go and allowing him to become himself. ...We had a special moment there.”
That would be the last ride — and one of the last moments — the two would share.
After dropping Martiece off at the family’s apartment, Travell pedaled away, planning to grab gas station snacks for a group of family and friends hanging out that afternoon.
A semi-truck turning from Brown Street into the parking lot of the gas station at 1520 W. Market St. struck the boy and killed him. The driver told authorities he hadn’t seen the boy while turning. No charges were filed.
“The family never recovered from that — it was different,” Martiece said in an interview. “It was different. I don’t think everyone has gotten over it.”
For Martiece, the loss fueled a creative project.
“The Unknown," a book dedicated to telling the Arrington family's story and coming to terms with the death of Travell, embodies both poetic and novelistic forms.
"For the past almost half-a-decade, since I entered college and then finally graduated, I've been working on this poem," he said. "This is my way of, I wouldn't say fully accepting his death, but providing a gift to him, in a sense. I don't think I'll ever accept it. It is what it is, but the best way for me to look at it is he would want me to do this right now. He would want me to share his story with the world."
That story starts in Chicago, where the family lived until 2007, and follows them as they move to Bloomington, where "Mom worked varied shifts" and "my father — he got locked up about a year before my younger brother passed, so it was a single-parent home."
The book charts not only the challenges the brothers faced, but also the fact that "somehow, we survive(d) in a world where children barely grow to see 18."
"His story is amazing: It's heartfelt, it's heartbreaking, it's heart-warming," Martiece said.
Martiece recently graduated with a communications degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, but promoting this book and this story, he said, is his vocation right now.
"Many folks have suggested to me to go graduate school. Many folks have suggested that I go to law school," he said. "I could go out and get a job, take my degree and go to different state and get a job with my degree. But I think my main focus is this: My younger brother's poem. This is my job."
Said Martiece: "I also want to inspire others. I'm not the only person in the world that has lost a significant other. I want to express to others, inspire others to know that you, too, can get over the one you love the most passing away."
Meet the athletes in the Tokyo Olympics with Illinois ties
Aisha Praught-Leer, Jamaica: 1,500-meter run
Alyssa Naeher, United States, soccer
Andrea Filler, Italy, soccer
Casey Krueger, United States, soccer
Darryl Sullivan, United States: High jump
David Kendziera, United States: 400-meter hurdles
David Robertson, United States, baseball
DeAnna Price, United States: Hammer
Eddy Alvarez, United States, baseball
Edwin Jackson, United States, baseball
Eliza Stone, United States: Saber
Evita Griskenas, United States, rhythmic gymnastics
Felicia Stancil, United States: BMX racing
Gwen Berry, United States: Hammer
Jewell Loyd, United States, women’s basketball team
Jordan Wilimovsky, United States: 10-kilometer
Jordyn Poulter, United States, volleyball
Josh Zeid, Israel, baseball
Julie Ertz, United States, soccer
Kelsey Card, United States: Discus
Kelsey Robinson, United States, volleyball
Kent Farrington, United States: Show jumping
Kevin McDowell, United States
Laura Zeng, United States, rhythmic gymnastics
Lauren Doyle, United States, rugby
Maggie Shea, United States, sailing
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, United States, volleyball
Mitch Glasser, Israel, baseball
Nefeli Papadakis, United States, judo
North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics team, United States: Rhythmic gymnastics team competition
Pedrya Seymour, Bahamas: 100-meter hurdles
Rajeev Ram, United States: Men’s doubles
Raven Saunders, United States: Shot put
Ryan Murphy, United States: 100- and 200-meter backstroke
Sandi Morris, United States: Pole vault
Stefanie Dolson, United States, 3x3 women’s basketball team
Thomas Detry, Belgium, golf
Thomas Jaeschke, United States, volleyball
Thomas Pieters, Belgium, golf
Tierna Davidson, United States, soccer
Tim Federowicz, United States, baseball
Tim Nedow, Canada: Shot put
Todd Frazier, United States, baseball
Tomáš Satoranský, Czech Republic, men’s basketball team
Tori Franklin, United States: Triple jump
Tyson Bull, Australia: Horizontal bar
Zach LaVine, United States, men’s basketball team
Zach Ziemek, United States: Decathlon
Olivia Smoliga, United States: 400-meter freestyle relay