Friday, December 30, 2011

When Headlines Hit

I admit it: I'm one of the many who let most of the news headlines just wash over them. Heard it before, somebody else's family/neighborhood/situation, stuff of my own going on. So when I heard about yet another shooting in Minneapolis where a stray (they think) bullet entered a house and hit a child, it didn't really register. Yes, of course it was a tragedy, and of course it hit all the local news services as repeating headlines.

Some things made this one stand out. Little Terrell Mayes was only three. I'd listened to his mom being interviewed over my car radio, talking about how after having her first child, she'd been told there could be no more. The next two were her miracle babies. Terrell was the youngest of her three. The bullet hit him in the back of the head, and he spent 17 hours in the hospital before he died.

Still, this story was just another tragedy for somebody else until yesterday's TV news. I saw a picture of him, so adorable it broke my heart. Now most 3-year-olds are cute, possibly except when their noses are running. Mine were. But this little guy was exceptional, especially in one picture where he and his mom posed with their heads together and big wide grins filling their faces. And then I heard some of the rest of the story.

Terrell and his brother had been eating supper in their home when they first heard shots nearby. The two of them were doing exactly what they had been taught to do under those circumstances: either drop to the floor or head upstairs to the second floor and hide in a closet. Terrell grabbed his plate of spaghetti and was heading up the stairs with it when the bullet struck.

It hit me over and over. It's not the irony of doing what's right and it turning out wrong. It's that they had a plan! Gunshots are so common in his neighborhood that the kids are all told what the plan is for when they hear gunfire. Imagine! When I hear gunfire around here, I know it's another hunting season. There's no plan, except to be cautious outdoors away from the yard. Orange might be a good wardrobe color. I've never needed "a plan". I've never needed to tell my kids to hit the floor. I can't imagine myself having to drop to the floor when any loud noise sounds, mostly because of the problems getting up again with my knees. But in these neighborhoods, these families have a plan.

That breaks my heart even more.

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