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The author: When Wes Moore met Wes Moore

Many articles in The Baltimore Sun's 175-year history have entertained me, enlarged my view of the world and forced me to reconsider my instincts or feelings. But one article struck me more than any other. It was about Wes Moore. And it had nothing to do with me.

I first heard about the murder of Sgt. Bruce Prothero in February, 2000. I was in South Africa, and my mother called. She began to tell me about wanted posters in my neighborhood and about a series of Sun articles about a man — Wes Moore —on the run for the murder of a police officer. As I learned more about this crime and about the people the police were looking for, including my namesake, I realized we had more in common than just our names. I realized we were around the same age, living in the same area. We both grew up in single-parent households, both had academic and disciplinary problems growing up.

I began to wonder, "How does this happen? How do two kids who come from similar backgrounds and similar circumstances end up going in opposite directions? While I was just months away from traveling 3,000 miles to attend Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship, the other Wes Moore would be heading 25 miles from home to a maximum-security facility for the rest of his life.

There were questions I wanted to ask, ones only he could answer, so I decided to reach out to him. A month after writing to him, I received a letter from Jessup Correctional Institute. His letter actually left me with more questions than answers. That one letter turned into dozens of letters. Those dozens of letters turned into dozens of visits. I now have known Wes for almost a decade.

I have never forgotten why he is in prison. In 2010 I wrote "The Other Wes Moore," and I try to make clear that this story is not about creating sympathizers or reopening cases. But I realize how thin that line can be between our lives and someone else's. I have learned that on our individual paths, much of who we are is shaped by others' attention or apathy. And I have learned that people's stories are never as clean and linear as prejudices and premature assessments can lead us to believe.

The other Wes Moore is a drug dealer, a robber, a murderer. I am a Rhodes scholar, a White House Fellow, a former Army officer. Yet our situations could easily have been reversed.

And so I've learned that we each have an obligation to serve more, do more, learn more. And we have an obligation to acknowledge and thank those who were willing to fight for us, in many cases long before we were willing to fight for ourselves.

I first read The Sun article thinking this story was about a horrific day with a tragic ending, but one that had nothing to do with me. One of the countless articles that makes us pause, shake our heads and then flip to sports so we can go about our day, unfazed. I later learned that it had everything to do with me. And everything to do with all of us.

An author, youth advocate, and businessman, Wes Moore is the host of "Beyond Belief" on the Oprah Winfrey Network. A small article in The Baltimore Sun helped inspire his first book, "The Other Wes Moore."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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