Wednesday, November 18, 2009


As I sat at my desk today, and looked across from me at one of my favorite people in the world, I asked a simple question: “How are you?”

“Not good”, and when Derry answers like that, my stomach sinks, and I prepare to hear the news about someone else who has died. This was the third shooting of a friend this week that Derry had told me about. Thankfully, the first two were not fatal, sadly this last one was; and it is a story I have heard all too often, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was confronted by someone who thought he was from a rival gang, and although he wasn’t and confronted his killer with his innocence, it didn’t matter - “he was shot once in the head and to make sure he was dead, he stood over him and shot him 6 more times” she explains in a voice taut with the strain of pain. “I’m just trying not to think about it…”

But we keep talking. This is the second funeral she will be going to this year, of a young man who has lost hislife to gang violence. “Tommy was the first funeral I went to, I was 14.” “He was my first too,” I remember - by far one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. “My mom told me she didn’t want me going to funerals, and I just didn’t get it then… I didn’t know she was saying that she didn’t want me to have to go through this over and over again”. Derry has been to at least one funeral a year in the 12 years since Tommy’s funeral. “And for what? A street that is still going to be there after they are gone? For a block? All for nothing…” she sighs in frustration.

I have run out of I am sorry’s and I know that there is nothing I can say that will make a dent in her pain, so we sit in silence for a moment. I will never be able to comprehend the maelstrom of emotions this courageous woman faces when confronted with the death of her friends and loved ones. What I do know is that she is part of the solution. She walks with strength, and love and unwavering, unconditional belief in the young people we work with. She is light. She is a mentor. She is my hero.

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