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I still remember that hot Chicago night in August 2016. I remember standing at an intersection behind the red police tape, looking at the man shot dead on a stoop.
I remember the shrieks and screams and cries of the 28-year-old’s friends and family echoing throughout the neighborhood. I remember a child who lived on the block staring at the victim’s body.
I remember much of the neighborhood looking on, many of them with blank stares and faces, as blue police lights bounced around.
When I was a crime reporter in Chicago, I saw many terrible things. I repeatedly saw the fear and trauma of not just the victim’s loved ones, but those who just happened to live in the area. People who heard the shots and saw the aftermath.
And yes – I saw it on the cops, and I felt it myself too. In fact, it’s something I still struggle with.
That’s why when one of the Parkland survivors, 18-year-old Sam Zeif, told President Donald Trump on Wednesday about what he experienced, I truly understood him.
“To feel like this – it doesn’t even feel like a week,” Zeif said, fighting back tears. “Time has stood still. To feel like this, ever, I can’t – I can’t feel comfortable in my country, knowing that people have, will have, are ever going to feel like this. I want to feel safe at school. I don’t know how I’m ever going to step foot on that place again. Or go to a public park after school. Or walk anywhere … Me and my friends get scared when a car drives by.”
This is unfortunately the sad reality of many Americans, young and old, who don’t get the national attention that Zeif deservedly did.
But many Americans didn’t have a loved one or a neighbor killed at school or a mall. It happened in their home. Or nearby, on their block.
To lose a loved one to violence is not like losing a loved one to natural causes or a terrible accident. It’s a different feeling.
The effects of gun violence are not just measured by the numbers lost, or the suffering of the victim’s loved ones. There’s a ripple effect that spreads throughout the community. It spreads into schools, into stores and so forth in a way that is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.
Last weekend, eight people were killed and 30 more were wounded in Chicago, including a 15-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man. The majority of the other victims were under 30 years old.
I didn’t see this in one national media report.
It seems like the only time our country discusses gun violence is when an anomaly like the one in Parkland last week happens. Sadly these anomalies are occurring more frequently.
But the fear and pain that we saw last week happens everyday around the country.