(CNN)When she saw the news Friday night that John Lewis had died, Lauren Annarino of Johnson City, Tennessee, picked up the phone to make a dreaded call to her 12-year-old grandson.To that boy, Tybre Faw, the civil rights icon was not only a hero, but a personal friend.The two met in Selma, Alabama, in March of 2018. We were there covering the annual civil rights pilgrimage that Lewis led when we saw Tybre standing outside a church where Lewis was attending a service. He held a sign that read, “Thank you Rep. John Lewis. You have shown me how to have courage.”
When we talked to Tybre, we learned that he had asked his grandmothers to drive him seven hours from his Johnson City home to Selma in the hopes of meeting the man mentioned in the books about the civil rights movement that the boy regularly checked out from the library and devoured.We connected Tybre and his grandmothers to Lewis’ staff and they brought him to the back entrance of the church where the congressman would be exiting.Tybre’s eyes welled up with tears the minute he saw Lewis, who came over, read the sign and hugged him as he spoke quietly to the boy who hung on every word. None of us who witnessed the meeting could keep from crying. Even Capitol Police officers there — trained to be stoic — were unable to hold back their tears.It was one of the most powerful moments any of us had ever witnessed, and we all knew it.