On this past Thursday afternoon when I arrived to work, I was informed by co workers that one of our most bubbling coworkers was devastated by the death of her youngest son(18 y/o) by random gunfire, as he waited at a bus stop a block away from his home. Her motherly intuition kicked in when she heard the sounds of death piercing the silent morning ; Minutes later she and her husband arrived on the scene to witness every parents worst nightmare. Just two days earlier co-workers joked with her about the tasty barbecue her husband had grilled, and sent word back to him how we appreciated his barbecue skills. She laughed uproariously and commented, “I will show tell him,what you’ve said” as she took pride in sharing with her coworkers the love and labor of her families July 4th festivities.
That afternoon of work covered us with a shawdow of pain, bewilderment and sorrow that until now was never shared by this close-knit group of co-workers. That evening work was no longer important, although we continued to work as nothing had occurred. We were helpless as to comforting her and her family although several coworkers were at her side throughout the morning before coming to work. Her pain was our pain ,and her lost was our lost, as we continued to receive information of the incident . Our sorrow resonated with other periphery co -workers as the word began to spread in the work area; Others begin to flood our immediate work area offering prayers ,support and presence as to affirm what we all felt from each other before ,that our work family (and environment) is affected by the joy and pain of all our families.
The ironic thing about this work environment is that we may very soon have to see the coward(s) who shot her son; treat him medically and psychologically, and make sure that his safety from others and perhaps himself is secure, prior to his day in court. You see we work in the metropolitans county jail – as officers, paramedics, emergency medical techs, psychology technicians, and nurses and physicians. And although we work with the criminal population everyday, we are able (most of the time) to detach our emotions from some of the horrific stories and details that we hear, and the alledged offender(s). That is, until this mistaken identity of gun violence hit home for us.
And oh, did I mention that on the prior evening the law enforcement/corrections community was already saddened by yet another inexplicable senseless killing of a decent police officer; from all accounts an admired human being and police officer who became the victim of a crime. He too, along with a 32 y/o police officer – in another incident – who was gunned down because four young men attempted to take his motorcycle from him in front of his parents home, are the two most recent senseless killings in this urban area – both occurring within sixty days of each other.
Both killings were senseless, both were innocent victims, both were sworn to serve and protect, and both were outstanding human beings and both were family men. My co workers son ,also, was soon to be a family man in that his girlfriend is expecting their frist child.
On this Thursday as we grieved with our co-worker, we were stopped in the middle of our shift, and placed on compound wide lock-down – meaning no movement in, or out of the correction facility by anyone, until notified. This lasted for three hours, however two hours into the lockdown we are informed of a gun being smuggled into the jail facility. Incredible as it seems, we are now potential targets of violence in our workplace.
Our community at the county jail have seen, heard, and experienced the foolishness of the cowards who inflict gun violence upon the community. But never had we taste and digested this painful reality t.v. like drama dish that the inner city youth are serving to the community at large.
On next Thursday this young man will formally be laid to rest. In our tradition, at the burial site (internment), the family, friends and coworkers will symbolically bless the casket by softly resting rose petals on the casket as it is lowered into the earth. Guns and roses , it seems, are inextricably connected, although I had never considered such a relationship; Wherever there are guns a rose must eventually be sacrificed.