By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
Where is the love?
No matter how many times these ugly, heartbreaking, frustrating, stories surface, we can never get to the point of comfort to accept such tragedy as ‘just the way it is.’
No matter how frustrated and tired and exasperated we may feel, we don’t have the luxury of giving up on our search for a solution. Damn the cynics. We just can’t.
The hearts of everyone who has one was broken when they heard the news last week of two 19-year-old college students; innocent bystanders in the parking lot having impromptu races with their friends and good old athletic fun shot and killed in a reckless, ruthless gun fight.
It wouldn’t matter where they are from for the pain to shoot through your sensibilities. But this one has impact close to home as one of the victims was Gary native Annette January, a star student athlete in her freshman year at Southern University.
The hurt was compounded by the death of her close friend Lashuntae Benton of Lake Charles, LA, who was a sophomore athletic trainer on campus.
I never met either of these young ladies and I don’t know their families, circle of friends, neighbors or fellow students. It still cut like a knife. If it stopped me in my tracks, imagine how hurt those closest to them must be right about now.
At least one person has been arrested and charged in connection with shootings at the scene. While some find solace in that kind of fact, it seems secondary to me.
Yes, I believe in issuing the stiffest possible penalty and I know how it may comfort those close to the victims but it’s hard to get past the finality of this inhumanity. For me, there is no consolation prize.
No punishment – no matter how severe – will fit this crime. An eye for an eye is never an equitable proposition when one is a cruel, brutal predator and the other is an innocent flower caught in the crossfire of stupidity.
Annette graduated second in her class from the Thea Bowman Academy in Gary. She wanted to study criminal psychology, possibly to try and figure out what would make anyone harbor such utter contempt for human life.
Along with being salutatorian, Annette earned more than 100 track and fields medals. Her scholastic and athletic prowess resulted in a full scholarship at Southern. Her first year of college, like everything else she tried, was successful – to this point.
So instead of family awaiting her return in a few weeks to share those freshman year experiences, her mother found herself on a plane to Louisiana for the most grueling ordeal imaginable for any parent.
If only the killers knew how each time they take the lives of people like Annette and Lashuntae, so many others lose a portion of their existence, maybe…
No. If they even had a mind to ponder the repercussions, it wouldn’t be so easy to pull the trigger.
So where do we go from our heartfelt lamentation, from our soul-deep condolences, from our bitter rage and anger over endless wanton violence, from our thirst for pure vengeance, from our desperate frustration, from our temptation to surrender?
Some people feel all hope is lost. There is little rationale argument that can be made against them. Except the knowledge that if we stop talking about it and doing whatever we can, large or small, then the enemy has the victory. And children already gone will have been lost in vain.
We can’t stop because too much in the past has been considered impossible to remedy in any given moment, and yet the tenacity of those who persisted resulted in unfathomable change, unimagined progress.
The only thing worse than our not being able to prevent this from happening to Annette and Lashuntae would be our failure to keep the same thing from happening to some other mother’s and father’s child somewhere.
We can’t help the way we feel about this horrible tragedy. We are flesh. But I still believe He can make a way out no way. And even if you are in doubt, just know that the cost of giving up will only assure that a bad situation becomes inconceivably worse.
RIH Annette and Lashuntae. May the Lord comfort those you left behind through the most precious memories of you and what you meant to them flowing through the spirits of those whose lives you touched.
And may the Lord give all of us everywhere the will, the guidance and the strength to continue fighting – assuring that neither your wonderful though brief lives, nor your cruel and untimely departure, were in vain.