Thursday, January 31, 2013

See ya, Hadiya

I was disappointed to read another sad and maddening story set in my beloved City of the Big Soldiers yesterday.

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot and killed two days ago while hanging out in a park after school. (The park is just a mile from President Obama’s Chicago home.) An honor student, volleyball player and majorette at King College Prep School, Hadiya “had no gang affiliation and likely was not targeted in the shooting attack,” according to CBS News.

Hadiya Pendleton
Her murder is receiving more media attention than other crimes because she had just performed a week ago with her high school band at the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. Now, in the city over which foul-mouthed former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel presides as mayor, she’s become a symbol of escalating violence and another poignant anecdote in the national debate about guns and crime.

I've traveled to Chicago many times – most recently by train with Anita and the kids – and I've loved it every time. Whether I had a meeting on Wacker Drive (a name that always makes me giggle like a 15-year-old majorette), was expanding my brain at the Museum of Science and Industry or expanding my stomach at the Cheesecake Factory on the ground floor of the Sears Tower (I refuse to acknowledge that the building was renamed “Willis Tower” in 2009), I always thought the city had great energy.

I experienced the amazing “Taste of Chicago” outdoor food festival in Grant Park years ago and remember it like it was yesterday. Jazz clubs, Wrigley Field, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Magnificent Mile and the Chicago Water Tower, Lake Shore Drive along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the hot summers and frigid winters...the number of reasons why this city is at the top of my “Places I Dig” list is large.

I never experienced the violence that’s such a big part of Chicago.

More than 500 murders occurred in Chi-town in 2012; 87 percent of these – or 435 – were committed with guns. A total of 2,400 shootings were reported to Chicago police last year.

And things are getting worse. Chicago’s 2012 murder rate was 19 percent higher than in the year before. More than 40 people have been killed in the Windy City just this month.

Just because Chicago is the third most populous city in the country and has a violent history doesn’t mean we should just shrug our shoulders and look away when good kids are gunned down after school.

The White House called Hadiya’s murder “a terrible tragedy.” I think that’s b*llsh*t. To me a tragedy is a car accident. A tornado. A tsunami. War. Genocide. An earthquake. A cowardly gunman running down an alley and shooting at a bunch of kids chillin’ in a park on the corner is different. It’s disgusting. Stomach-turning. Despicable. And what’s most infuriating is that it’s in many cases preventable.

As Hadiya’s devastated mom told a reporter yesterday, “Something does need to change.”

So the young girl who her cousin called “a walking angel” – the one whose biggest transgression was running up her parents’ credit card buying books on Amazon – is in the morgue.

And Shedd Aquarium is no longer the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Chicago.

Rest in peace, Hadiya Pendleton.


Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

~ Carl Sandburg

Sources:, Chicago Tribune, Washington Monthly,

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