What The Hell's Going On In "Heavenston"?

What The Hell's Going On In "Heavenston"?
Photo by Heather Sheedy Kezdy (www.facebook.com/pages/Evanston-sunrise)

What the hell is going on here?

Seriously, what the HELL is going on?

I moved to Evanston 15 years ago for many reasons. My husband and I wanted to live near Chicago and Lake Michigan, and we also wanted to raise our family in a place filled with people and stories and cultures and interests beyond the ones we'd known growing up.

Four nights ago, 14-year-old Dajae Coleman was shot and killed walking home near Evanston Township High School.

This morning, as members of the ETHS girls' cross country team finished their a.m. run, two men ran toward them -- one them holding a gun.

When I was in high school, my stressors involved grades, boys and my hair (especially following the swimming unit in P.E.) and avoiding situations involving my parents embarrassing me.These were SERIOUS problems I'd lose sleep over.

The kids at ETHS are traumatized by the murder of a freshman two blocks from their school...not to mention this latest gun-wielding incident on Church Street...or the gun-waving person at the school's first football game.

And let's not forget the shooting at the McDonald's near the high school or the ETHS football player gunned down after a dispute.

Here are just some of the comments I've heard or read from friends today (I'll paraphrase some):

--"My son was at an ETHS game a couple weeks ago when a man pulled out a gun to (I guess) intimidate some kids. Very scary! He didn't even tell me about it until recently because he was scared I would never let him go to another game. He told me as he begged to go to Niles HS after Dajae was killed. After thinking about it, he doesn't want to leave his friends and these things can happen anywhere, unfortunately. I just hope we can get it under control and the guns off of our streets! I love Evanston, but I hate that my child is fearful...and honestly, so am I."

--"The situation is out of control. We really need to control the gun violence in this city. Absolutely unacceptable."

--In addition to the shooters and the victims, why isn't there a focus on the guns?

--Would you ever let your 14-year-old walk home from a party at 10:30pm?

What's it going to take? More kids killed? Fewer kids allowed to freely roam their neighborhoods? More police presence? Metal detectors at games and in the school?

The worst thing I've heard in the last 4 days? One of my own children announcing the desire to move out of this town because it's no longer safe. How could I possibly argue with that?

Tonight I sent this email to Evanston's Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, and Police Dept. Chief Eddington:

Hello, Mayor Tisdahl and Mr. Bobkiewicz and Chief Eddington,

As a resident of Evanston, an ETHS parent (of a freshman who knew Dajae Coleman) and a columnist for Evanston's Patch.com, I am writing to you. Several ETHS parents have called me today about an incident their children are reporting about a man on Church street who waved a gun in front of some ETHS cross country girls during practice. While I have no way to confirm this issue, what I can say is that I speak for many Evanston parents who feel we need to feel a sense of security and leadership regarding the violence around town. I'm not alone in feeling the need for a calming voice to speak to our residents, and I don't think many of us can wait until next Tuesday's meeting with Mayor Tisdahl. If there's a message that can be shared, I'll be happy to start the process. The fear and confusion many of us feel is stunning.
Thank you

I heard from the City Manager within the hour:

Received note. Below is statement from Police on matter.  I forwarded your note to Chief Eddington. I will let him and Mayor Tisdahl reply as they feel appropriate. 

"On 9/26/12, at approximately 9:45am, Evanston Police responded to the area of Church/Hartrey on a call of a man with a gun. Police units located a complainant who alleged that he was threaten by an individual brandishing a ‘long gun’ who resided in the 2400 block of Church St. Units arrived at that residence and subsequently took a suspect into custody pending further investigation.

It should be noted that at the time of this call, the ETHS girls track team was in the area in which some of the students witnessed this event. Interviews of some of the track team members were conducted.

The investigation led to a search of the residence in question as well as an area along Church St. from Hartrey to McDaniel. No weapon was located.

Futhermore, there appears to be an ongoing feud between the complainant and suspect. No charges were filed."

Soon thereafter, I received this statement from the Mayor:

Hello Christine,
The police found the man, but did not find a gun. The cross country girls are convinced there was a gun. Whether there was or was not and there may well have been one, we have too many guns in this community. Some of us are working to raise money for a gun buy back program. Gun buy back programs are not as good as gun control legislation but the courts do not leave us other options.
Evanston has had two safe summers for 13-25 year olds. The rec department , the youth division, the faith communty, EPD, the schools , the Mayors Youth Group and the not for profits have worked hard and worked well to make that happen. We know what to do. We all have to work harder and it will help if there are more of us doing the work. I think there will be. Until the gun control laws change we all have to work hard.
The Evanston Police Department is excellent. If they are able to make an arrest, get the murderer off the streets and provide some of the information you are requesting we will all be calmer. 
Liz Tisdahl

I'll tell you what: right now, I'm trying to stay calm, and it's not easy, especially when your kids want to move from the place you've always felt was a little piece of heaven...because they no longer feel safe.


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    Christine Wolf

    I tend to cover life's ups and downs. I don't shy away from the tougher, more emotional stories. While I'm always willing to voice an opinion, it sometimes contradicts my innate desire to please everyone at all times. Such is this crazy life, I suppose. Ultimately, I search for meaning in the human experience, and openly share how I (try to) keep my head above water. Thanks so much for dropping by. I really appreciate hearing your thoughts.

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