Since 2009 I’ve worked in five Chicago Public Schools around the city and I’ve been blessed to have worked with some amazing young people through True Star. That’s why whenever I hear about another teenager being killed my heart begins to race, especially if I learn that this child was a student at one of those five schools. I’ve had this unfortunate adrenaline rush happen two times already. Yesterday was the third.
Please God, don’t let it be one of my kids, is the first thing that comes to mind whenever I learn details of a child’s death. As horrible as that may sound, it’s true. The first time I said that inner prayer was when I arrived at my current school early enough to hear an office-prepared announcement being read about the shooting death of a girl who had died the day before. Once I heard her name my mind quickly raced through the names of the kids I knew from my programs at that school. Hers was not one of them. Even though I exhaled with a tiny bit of relief I still teared up at the thought of her passing.
Months later another teenager, a boy this time, from the same school, died in a parking lot after leaving a basketball game. I didn’t know him either, but one of my students did, and that was enough to sadden me once more.
Yesterday I said the inner prayer again after I received a text message about the shooting death of another girl on the city’s South Side.
Please God, don’t let it be one of my kids.
The first details were fuzzy, but shortly after that more info poured in.
Hadiya Pendleton; 15; sophomore at King College Prep.
I didn’t know her, but for some reason that didn’t matter. Despite trying to continue with what I was doing my eyes swelled up with tears.
I reached out to one of the kids I knew who attended the school and quickly learned that Hadiya was a bright girl who was liked and loved by many. She was an athlete and had just performed at the inauguration with her school and fellow majorettes. I later found out that while she was never in any of my programs Hadiya had been a participant of True Star Jr. some years back.
Even though I didn’t Hadiya personally I still felt and feel a huge sense of loss for her and her family. Maybe it’s the fact that she was a good kid caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe it’s the idea that the same thing could have happened to someone I’m close to. I’m not sure. I just know that once again I’m saddened by these senseless killings of our youth and that this madness MUST STOP.
Supt. Gary McCarthy, of the Chicago Police Department, who just met with President Obama in DC on gun control, has vowed to close this case as soon as possible. An $11,000 reward has been offered for any information leading to the capture and conviction of Hadiya’s killer. Call 312-744-4000 with any details you may have.