Baltimore is full of smart, hopeful and resilient children
Mar 25, 2019 at 3:50 PM
A 56-year-old staffer at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore was reportedly shot Friday.
This month there have been 17 murders in Baltimore, the youngest victim two-years-old and the oldest less than 30. This week The Sun featured a 17-year-old who was shot in his neighborhood and the same day there was another shooting at his high school suggesting he would not have been safe anywhere (“Frederick Douglass High School struggles to return to normality after shooting,” Mar.14). The New York Times is now covering Baltimore as being a tragic, lawless city that has spiraled out of control in the aftermath of Freddie Gray's death and the unrest that followed. USA Today has deemed it the most dangerous city in America.
As a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine, that is not what I see. I see amazingly resilient young people who are missing out on three of the sparks that they need to thrive — feeling safe, being free of worry, and having optimism for the future. I see young people who can't sleep at night because they saw a friend or family member injured or murdered by gun violence. I see young people who wear their grief as tattoos etched into their skin as permanent tombstones attesting to their trauma. I see substance use as an escape that leaves young people high and unbothered, but undermines their brain development and motivation to do the hard work necessary to fulfill their dreams. I see students working hard, desperate for a future, but whose educational opportunities pale in comparison to what those in surrounding counties can realize.
Within one week, legislators in New Zealand were able to change gun laws in response to a shooting that took one-seventh of the losses that Baltimore had last year. I know that there are other public health issues and disparities affecting citizens in Baltimore, but gun violence is literally killing the future. While cumulative deaths are less sensational, they deserve an equal and emergent response. As we've seen in the New Zealand crisis, thoughts and prayers are essential for healing, but they are not enough.
Adults — all of us — must become more powerful on behalf of young people and create something different here. Baltimore needs to become a transformative gun-free city that designs local policies and laws that provide hope, health and security for its people. We must fight through the growing apathy toward death that has set in as a protective mechanism in the face of so much trauma and creatively mobilize our intellectual and capital resources to effect change. Young people are watching us, and they deserve a better, safer city.
Dr. Maria Trent, Baltimore
The writer is a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the chair of the section on adolescent health for the American Academy of Pediatrics and president of the Society for Adolescent Medicine.