The death of Hadiya Pendleton: Is Chicago safe for children?

The death of Hadiya Pendleton: Is Chicago safe for children?
Hadiya Pendleton

“It’s very painful to see your big sister get slaughtered.”

A ten year-old boy had to utter those words because his 15 year old sister, Hadiya Pendleton, died after being shot in the back while she was hanging out with friends in a North Kenwood park.

Hadiya was an honors student at King College Prep, a selective enrollment school on the south side.  She had just finished an exam and was hanging out with friends, when a gunman ran into the park, sprayed shots at the group Hadiya was with and fled.  A shot hit Hadiya in the back, killing her.  Another King student was hit in the leg.

By all accounts, Hadiya was a great kid.  She just returned from the inauguration where she performed as a drum majorette.  She was an honors student.  She traveled to New Orleans, where she performed at Mardi Gras.  This year, she was going to Dublin and Paris with the school band.  One day she would go to college to become a pharmacist or journalist.

And now she’s dead.  Because she lives in Chicago.

I didn’t know Hadiya but I can’t look at her photograph without tears coming to my eyes.  And maybe that’s because she could have been my daughter.  She could have been your daughter.

If you live in Chicago, you are not safe.  You can do everything right: work hard to provide your children good opportunities and a good home, instill the importance of education and provide that education to your children.  You can do everything right and your child can still be shot dead.

And why?  Why are we killing each other?  42 homicides through January 30th.  506 homicides in 2012.   Why?

I live in Chicago.  I am an involved parent.  I love my children.  But as more and more children die on our streets—without an end in sight—I’m starting to think “I live in Chicago” and “I love my children” are mutually exclusive.  Is it safe to raise children here?  If a child cannot be in a city park without her life being in danger, then maybe that city is not safe for children.  This stuff doesn’t happen in Naperville does it?  How many homicides did Deerfield have in 2012?  What about Oak Lawn?

Unfortunately, too many Chicagoans don’t value life.  If we all did, then Hadiya--- and 548 others over the last 13 months—would still be alive.

As I sit on my couch watching television, the thought runs through my head that a stray bullet  could come through my window. Of course it is not terribly likely, but it is much more likely in Chicago than in Glen Ellyn.

I don’t expect much.  All I want is a city where my children can put on a backpack, walk to a neighborhood school and be assured of a good education.  Even without the threat of getting gunned down in a park, Chicago can’t boast being able to provide a quality education for its children.  But then consider that in Chicago kids can’t sit in a park after class without threat of being shot, can’t go to a high school basketball game without fear of being shot, can’t ride a bus without getting shot, can’t walk home from school without being beaten to death, and can’t sit on their front porch without being shot to death.

Every week reasonable Chicagoans keep calling for an end to violence.  Other than the press conferences featuring Father Pfleger, the only thing more constant in Chicago is the violence Father Pfleger condemns.  Maybe it’s just time to move a community where people don’t shoot each other.  There’s a thought!  Moving to a community where the mayor doesn’t have press conferences about the murder rate.  Living in a community where kids can play in a park without fear of getting gunned down.

For all the beautiful things Chicago offers, it can’t offer safety as our kids sit in a park.

If a child can’t play in a city park without risk of being gunned down—then it is time to move.


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  • Fifteen years ago when we were househunting we didn't even look in Chicago. We love all the city offers, but didn't see it as a place to raise children. First there is the CPS mess. We had friends with three kids in three different schools. A year after we bought our house they left for the suburbs. They couldn't take it anymore. Second there was the safety issue. Even then we worried about raising kids in Chicago. People talk about how much better off their kids are because they live in Chicago, but are they really? Everyone I know who lives in Chicago right now is either thinking about getting out or has put a for sale sign in their yards. It is not safe for anyone and will not be for a while. It doesn't matter how hard the police work when the general culture doesn't change. Hadiya wasn't by herself, yet no one saw anything that could help police? Until that changes Chicago will not be safe for anyone.

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