The old saying: “A bullet has no name,” isn’t really true. The boy whose eye the bullet ripped through before exiting through the back of his skull in New Orleans was named Keian Ester. He was 11 and playing Xbox and never regained consciousness. If that story isn’t sad enough, know that Keian wasn’t the only young person affected by violence in New Orleans this weekend. The Times Picayune reports:
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Doctors at University Hospital declared Keian dead Saturday afternoon, making him the third fatality in the New Orleans area within a bloody 24-hour period. Keian, a fifth grader at George Cox Elementary School in Gretna, liked to play football and basketball. But in order to keep him safe, Johnson-Ester kept him inside at night playing video games. On Friday afternoon she dropped Keian off for a sleepover at the apartment on Beechgrove Boulevard in unincorporated Westwego. Then she went to work as a home health aide, a job that keeps her busy seven days a week. A day later, with her husband and 10-year-old twin daughters by her side, Johnson-Ester said goodbye to her only son, kissing his still body, crying over him and telling him she loved him. Between Friday night and Saturday afternoon, three people were killed including Keian, and 10 wounded in a spate of unrelated shootings. Four of those wounded were teenagers hit by bullets fired into a crowd after a high-school basketball game. All but two of the shootings occurred in Orleans Parish. The other two killings were in the 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans.
The reason that old saying– the one my mother would sometimes utter to me when I was a teenager leaving the house– isn’t true, is because these bullets seem to have the names of our young people written all over them. Young Keinan was doing nothing more than playing video games while his mother worked to earn money to support him and the rest of her family. And shouldn’t an athletic event be a safe venue for young people to hang out with their friends?
The reason events like these aren’t safe anymore is because guns have now become one of the primary tools of communication in too many communities across America.
Here’s the Time’s Picayune’s description of Keinan’s shooting and the shooting at the basketball game:
After Easton won, the crowd rushed the court — as is tradition — causing some sort of tiff. Those involved were escorted out by school officials and Orleans Parish Sheriff’s deputies, who typically provide security for Easton games, according to the observers, who asked not to be identified. While emotions were definitely high, police and witnesses said they didn’t know what prompted someone to fire into the crowd. Neighbors who live near the apartment where 11-year-old Keian was murdered say they woke up to small white signs placed by police detectives marking seven different bullet holes in the front of the wooden apartment building. Like most of the large complex, the building was largely vacant, they said. Tyrone Coston, 57, said elderly neighbors heard gunfire, hit the floor and spent the night sleeping on the carpet, in fear.
Seven bullet holes?
The person firing that gun was expressing themselves the only way they knew how, the way they were probably taught by the people around them, through violence. And the fact that a school rivalry has to be settled with bullets instead of on a basketball court shows that our kids simply don’t have the language to work out their differences.
Of course the availability of these cheap, deadly weapons is a huge part of the problem. It was just a year ago that a gunman shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others, killing six people. Not much has changed on a national policy level involving guns since then.
But don’t we need to take steps to teach our kids to communicate with one another without turning to violence? Maybe schools need to have a course focused on conflict resolution. Parents need to start at home by limiting the amount of conflict their children see as close to nil as possible.
Just because someone skipped you in line in the supermarket does not mean that threats of violence are required (recently witnessed that with my own eyes). If fighting in a child’s home is introduced as the solution to problems, then that is the paradigm kids are going to use in their own lives. There are enough bullets out there to ensure that too many of our kids’ names prematurely wind up on tomb stones.
What do you think we can do to stem the violence in our communities?