Dajae Coleman, a 14-year-old freshman at Evanston Township High School, was shot and killed while walking with friends near the school two nights ago.
When I first moved to Evanston, I was pregnant with my first child, now a 14-year-old freshman at ETHS. Back then, my husband and I lived in our very first house near Lake Street and Florence Avenue, just three blocks from where Dajae was killed. We brought our son home from the hospital, swaddled in blankets and love and new-parent nervousness. Friends and family often asked if we planned to stay in Evanston, but we knew to read between the lines. What they really wanted to know was, Do you think it's a safe place to raise a family?
In fourteen years, he'd share a P.E. class with Dajae Coleman at ETHS.
Our small-yet-growing family spent two and a half years on Florence Avenue. Every now and then, we'd hear an occasional "pop" of sound. Was that a gunshot or kids shooting off firecrackers?
As our son grew, so did our need for space. We asked ourselves, "Is it time to head deeper into the suburbs? North to Wilmette? Back to Chicago? After every search, we'd return to Evanston just knowing in our hearts we were home. We sold the house on Florence and moved to a larger house just nine blocks away.
Our son attended Nichols Middle School while Dajae attended nearby Haven. I have never met Dajae's mother, but we share a history, having both raised young men in Evanston. They met as 14-year-old freshmen at Evanston Township High School, but they would only know each other for 14 days.
Dajae's friends called him Dae Dae, and everyone describes him as an outstanding student and athlete. They say he was a wonderful boy in the wrong place at the wrong time, shot by someone for absolutely no reason.
In the past 48 hours over 3,500 people have joined a Facebook page called Stop The Violence In Evanston. The posts include farewells to Dajae, commentary about violence, and, most notably, a suggestion to turn Evanston Township High School's upcoming homecoming into a peace rally.
As an ETHS parent, I've received downloads about how to help children through tragic situations as well as links to donate to the Dajae Coleman Memorial Fund. However, the most important thing I've heard came from a friend's comment. She's raised four children and each one has attended ETHS. Each one of them has now had a classmate killed by a violent act.
So when will the gunshots cease?
Dajae's father said in a local news interview that he knows his son was not the target of such violence. In other words, it could have been any kid, but it just happened to be his.
I'm sorry my son will never get to say, "I went to high school with Dajae Coleman...just look at him now."
I'm sorry for the sadness blanketing the school...and that grief counselors await students unsure how to open up in front of their peers, many of them holding in their feelings until they get home as they walk past the makeshift memorial on Church Street where Dajae was killed.
I'm sorry this tragedy stirs up so many other memories of violence committed against innocent people taken far too soon.
Goodbye, Dajae. I'm sorry I'll never get to see your star shine here in Evanston. I understand you loved basketball and everything about LeBron James.
I cannot believe what this senseless act has done to our community. However, instead of looking down at the heartless soul who took your life so early, I'll search the sky for your star -- and your new position in the game.