Alex McKinnon was just 10-years-old when his brother, Paul, died. Paul was just 14 when he was hit and killed by a speeding police cruiser outside of his school. Alex remembers a lot about after Paul’s death: their sister’s eulogy, his mother barely being able to eat, the look on the police officer’s face as they went to trial after hearing after trial. But what he can’t remember is his brother. Alex’s podcast “Sorry About The Kid” follows his journey to get to know his brother 30 years after he was killed, as well as a look at how trauma and grief shapes the lives of those left behind.
“Sorry About the Kid” is a product of CBC Podcasts, a studio that has also produced podcasts like “Uncover,” “The Village,” and “Hunting Warhead.” It’s just four, 30-minute long episodes filled with intimate conversations with friends and family about the boy they loved.
While Alex was extremely close with his older brother during the years they had together, he found that just a week or two after Paul’s death, he began to lose his memories of him – first his voice, then his laugh, then entire chunks of his life spent with Paul. To this day, his parents and older sister, Sarah, will tell Alex stories about Paul that he was certainly a part of, but Alex can’t remember a thing.
Alex tries to find many answers throughout “Sorry About the Kid.” He wants to find out why the only thing he can truly remember about his brother is his funeral. He wants to know how he could possibly forget his favorite person so easily. But, there’s another layer to this story, one to do with the wave of pedestrians killed by speeding police in Montreal that year.
This podcast also grapples with how Paul died. He was killed by a speeding police car being driven by a rookie cop. While some of the 30 witnesses said that the police officer had run a red light when Paul was killed, the coroner said that while the police car was driving at a dangerous speed, Paul had been crossing at a green light. On top of that, the police car had only sounded their siren a second or two before Paul was hit. The young police officer testified that he had been trained to not sound the siren for too long as to not distress the public.
Along with his findings, the coroner found that the cause of Paul’s death was due to bad policy, and the cops in the car chose not to adequately announce their presence. The coroner recommended not only that their siren policy be changed, but that newer cops be paired with more experienced police to prevent these accidents. The McKinnons thought for sure that the young cop would be charged with negligent homicide, but Montreal’s lead prosecutor wasn’t convinced. The cop was allowed to keep his job; his only punishment being a three day suspension for endangering pedestrians. “Sorry About the Kid” is also about the McKinnons’ fight to change the police policies that killed their young son.
This podcast reminds us somewhat of “Dying For Sex” and “Alligator Candy.” All three podcasts reconcile with the concept of death, albeit in very different ways. The latter is easier to see: the podcast is also one man’s search for memories of his older brother who died when they were young. And much like “Dying For Sex,” the grief of this story is certainly all-consuming, but there’s also peace to be found by telling those stories. These stories come from a place of love in an attempt to honor the memories they have of their lost loved ones. At once it is aching and cathartic, a beautifully told story that is a rare find.