For Florida schoolchildren, a day of violence and fear; for Baltimore schoolchildren, a way of life
By Kevin Rector
Feb 16, 2018 at 2:25 PM
People gather for a candlelight vigil Thursday in honor of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Listen to the kids from Parkland about gun violence, but listen to the kids in Baltimore, too.
Since the killing of 17 students, teachers and coaches at a Florida high school on Wednesday, many brave students who survived have spoken out about the need for change. As victims of the psychological and emotional damage that always spreads like shrapnel from incidents of gun violence, they should be heard.
I just hope people know kids in Baltimore want change, too. They’ve been calling for it for years.
Massacres in America are so frequent now that we count and categorize them. We compare 20 first graders and six adults being killed in an elementary school to 17 slaughtered at a high school. We consider what we would do ourselves if bullets started flying in a night club, or raining down from above at an outdoor festival.
We do a similar counting and categorizing of gun violence in Baltimore, it’s just more routine.
One of the biggest accomplishments in Baltimore’s recent battle with gun violence was a 12-day stint without a homicide. It ended Tuesday when two people were fatally shot in Northeast Baltimore, each on the block where they lived.
For the past three years, someone has been killed in Baltimore — population about 615,000 — almost every day, so 12 days off was quite a break.
Last year, there were 342 homicides counted by police, a per capita record. The rate at which people are killed here makes Baltimore one of the more violent cities in the world, not just the United States.
Despite the ever-more-frequent massacres of children and church-goers nationwide, many places in the United States remain relatively safe. But not Baltimore.
“It’s like sitting on a keg of dynamite,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told me at the end of last year, of all the killing in the city. “If we don’t fix it, it will all explode.”
People in Baltimore feel that way every day, not just when someone busts into a school with a rifle.
In a Baltimore high school that lost five students to street violence last school year and has lost two more since, not counting others who have been shot and wounded, I sat in a classroom last spring as a local minister asked how many of the students there knew their classmates who had been killed. A few raised their hands.
When he asked how many had known someone else killed in the city, five more hands shot up, then six: a majority of the students in the room.
“I’m here today because I watched my homeboy die,” one student told me. “I ain’t trying to end up the same way.”