Will Newtown, Conn., Be The Breaking Point?
5 months ago
Children are being shot around the country; can we do something, now, to make it stop?
When she thinks about the shooting, Shianne Norman knows there is no answer to the “why?” and so instead goes back into the “what ifs?” What if things had somehow unfolded differently? Would her little boy, the one who loved pancakes and bananas and fighting with his sister, then still be alive?
“This is, I hope, the worst I will ever feel in my life,” Norman told the "New York Times." “Please don’t tell me my son is in a better place. Though it’s true, I wanted him to be with me. Don’t tell me to be thankful for the time I had, because I want more.”
The country is consumed with the deaths of the 20 children, ages 6 and 7, who were killed Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
On Friday morning, parents received calls instructing them to go to the school, and they waited at a nearby fire station for news. As the hours passed, most had tearful reunions with their children; but finally, officials came into the room to say that there were no more children to come. There would be no more reunions. Parents began to wail.
Norman knows these parents’ anguish well. But she is not from a tony Connecticut suburb, she lives in a New York neighborhood 65 miles south—the Bronx. Norman’s 4-year-old son, Lloyd Morgan Jr., was shot and killed July 22, 2012, as he played on a basketball court, at a memorial event for Troynisha Harris, an 18-year-old who had been fatally stabbed at the playground two years earlier.
“This ought to be a wake-up call for all of us,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said during his eulogy for Lloyd this summer. “Our babies are dying.”
But it seems Lloyd’s death didn’t wake anyone up. Nor did the deaths of the hundreds of children who have been killed in the Bronx, South Side Chicago, and other urban neighborhoods this year. There was no tearful president on TV, no stream of messages on Facebook and Twitter listing the names of the dead or calling for gun control. The deaths of Lloyd Morgan, of 7-year old Heaven Sutton, who was shot as she sold candy in her Chicago neighborhood, of others like them, passed almost without notice.
And here, I think, the question is why?
According to statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund, on average, 3,000 children die each year due to gun violence. That’s one child killed every three hours, every single day. Black children and teens were only 15 percent of the total child population in 2008 and 2009, and yet accounted for 45 percent of all child and teen gun deaths.
So why, given the 3,000 children who are killed each year, does the shooting in Connecticut have such an impact on us? Several of my friends mentioned hugging their children extra tight when they came home from school on Friday. Before the day was done, they had signed petitions and donated money to the Brady Fund. But by June of this year, 24 children had been killed in Chicago alone, due to gun violence, and I didn’t see the same sense of outrage and grief. So what is it about this particular case? Is it the fact that 20 children were killed at one time? Is it that this was at an elementary school, a place we send our children expecting that they'll be safe? Is it because this was a neighborhood that looks much like the ones the more fortunate among us live in, which makes us think that even though we live in places that are good and safe, we too can be affected by gun violence?