Last year I wrote about an anti-gang program in the city of Norwalk geared toward 4th graders. I was in disbelief. Fourth grade, really?
Led by an ex-gang member, he told me kids in elementary school are being actively recruited, being asked, "Where you from?"
And surrounded by family comprised of gang members who glorify gangs. And I realized: 4th grade isn't too young.
I grew up with stories of friends' parents killing each other. Friends' brothers getting shot by rival gangs or beat up. Getting jailed.
My own brother was jumped into a gang and came home with a broken jaw. He had a gun in our sock drawer.
I've covered stories where just "looking like" a gang member will get an unarmed father of 4 shot in the back by a submachine gun by a cop.
So, when it was announced that my nieces wouldn't be growing up here, would be in a suburb in Utah... I was weirdly OK with it.
I thought, "Just get them the fuck out of here." I was so happy to know they wouldn't have stories like mine.
But they called me today and said a cop on their street killed his entire family in their house. The two children were their classmates.
And I don't know how to make sense of that. I didn't know what to say to them, other than, "I'm sorry."
So, they may not have stories like mine, but gun violence is PERVASIVE. And I know that's obvious, but it just hit me so hard.
Because they're just little kids, babies in my eyes, and there's nothing I can to them. I have no answers or advice. So, we sat in silence.
I told my niece, "Are you OK? Did your school bring in counselors or anything?" And she said no, that they prayed for the family.
No grief counselors. No talks about domestic violence or staying away from guns; just prayer.
So, now I'm lost. I don't know how some of y'all have children. I couldn't do it, couldn't send them out into that big, bad world every day.