Homicides are tragic. 500 in one year are grisly. What’s more, the facts say this last murder dared to take place at the quiet green corner of Augusta & Laverne. Good lord, the very same apartment building steps where I picked up Connie for our Senior Prom during that time-time-has-forgotten: 1949.
Can we both agree some events warrant special altars in the cathedral of our memory? Unlike today’s ghettoed-gray neighborhood, back then this old west-side of Chicago was a verdant network of red bungalows, white frame-houses, and neat rows of two-flats. Connie — resplendent in soft yellow gown — skipped over the same front steps where 46-year-old Robert Anderson had been gunned down.
As you can see, I had the facts. Name, age, location. Anderson was Black and on parole, the assailant was Hispanic and a member of some rival gang. The more I read, though, the less I knew. Sometimes you can have all the facts, yet only part of the truth. I don’t know why this bothers me, but it does. This was not just one more killing; it was an act of personal violence that dared to occur on the soil of this kingdom of my youth. Some animal had chosen my community, my block, my little corner of Chicago to spill blood forever marking it as another tragic part of the city’s killing fields!
The press reports were revealing very little about motive, intention, opportunity. Was it strictly gang warfare? Did the two men know one another? Funny, but when you were once an integral part of all this — these elm-lined streets and the families who poked their heads outdoors — you can’t help feeling a little proprietary about the place. After all, Connie and her widower-ed father lived right there on that first floor…Jimmy the druggist ran the store across te street…if I were to drive over to the scene of the crime, I’m sure I could still see and smell remnants of our little gang.
Now that’s what was really bothering me. How dare these nameless newcomers have taken over our neighborhood, our buildings, our stores, and morphed them into real gangs and real crime. I didn’t see this coming…! I didn’t want it to come…! Now its all too late, right…? If only someone had to told me the facts that were going down back them…!
Ahh, but they did. These same newspapers were reporting these shifting population facts back then. Back when there still was time for an orderly transition instead of the chaotic white flight of the 70s. Somehow, though, just-the-raw-facts aren’t always enough. Facts have the be felt to count…and on this score the press often still fails.
Just-reporting-the-facts in today’s 24/7 fact flood, isn’t all there is to the job. There are feelings to the facts needed to bring the story home. In all its full fury….
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