I live in Chicago and frankly, there are too damn many Hadiya Pendletons: young people murdered for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sunday’s Chicago Tribune carried a front page article about Hadiya’s closest girlfriends. They’re typical kids, teenagers, whose lives will never be the same: both for their close friendships with Hadiya and the horrible death they witnessed.
The shots detonate like firecrackers – boom boom boom boom boom – and the friends, a dozen of them altogether, run.
The girl named Danetria does not run well. She is out of breath, struggling to keep up, when, ahead of her, she sees one of her friends fall, and she thinks about how slowly her friend collapsed, and how gracefully, and how strange this all is, like a dream.
The girl named Kyra is still running. From behind her she hears someone shout "Hadiya’s been shot!”
The causes of the violence plaguing Chicago are many and complex: easy availability of guns from Indiana, poverty, high unemployment, drugs, gangs, lack of parental support, under-performing schools, blah, blah, blah. They’re all connected. But Hadiya’s murder is proof that even when parents do everything right, they can’t protect their children from the world around them.
In the Tribune’s examination of the effects of Hadiya’s death on her friends, one paragraph stood out for me. It was the initial police statement, made a few hours after the shooting:
“Preliminary information indicates that most of the members of the group were gang members. None of the group stuck around and rendered aid or waited for the police. By all indications the female victim was an unintended target.”
Only the last sentence was true.
The police officer making the statement didn’t know that Klyn squeezed Hadiya’s hand or Danetria held her head in her lap until the police and ambulance arrived; didn’t know that Kyra had run to borrow a cellphone to call 911. Now we know, but the damage is done.
No one – at 15 – should watch their best friend die.
No one – at 15 – should feel guilty for not being able to save their friend’s life.
No one – at 15 – should struggle just to get through the day, consumed with “what if’s”.
No one – at 15 – should have nightmares about seeing their best friend lying in a casket.
No one – at 15 – should avoid going to the park, because that’s where their best friend was murdered.
No one – at 15 – should wish they’d had the chance to say “I’m sorry.”
But they do.
Today is – by my calculations – the 14th Tuesday since Hadiya was gunned down. The perpetrators are in jail. Her friends are trying to move on, knowing only one thing for sure: their lives will be forever changed because of Hadiya. Life goes on, whether you want it to or not.
I encourage you to read the story below. Whatever your beliefs are on violence, guns, gangs or teenagers, I guarantee this will give you something to think about.
As it should.