For many people across the country, the sting of death is not felt until one reaches their middle years and must cope with the loss of their parents. This, however, does not seem to be the case for many in Omaha in recent weeks. Imagine being a two- or four-year-old and being forced to deal with the death of a parent; a sudden, violent death with no time to prepare–not that a small child ever could be prepared for such a thing.
It almost seems as if these recent shootings are not simply cases of murder. Perhaps they should be characterized also as theft. These violent individuals are stealing young men, women, even children, from their families. Perhaps the family in question consists of a mother and father, grieved for the loss of their child. Perhaps it also consists of several small children, now lost without their parent. These people are the living victims of these shootings. This is not the way it is supposed to play out. Parents should not have to bury their children. Children should not have to grow without a parent.
Two young Omaha men, who have asked that their names not be printed, were in attendance at two of the funerals for recent shooting victims in Omaha. We’ll call them “Shawn” and “Lorenzo”. These young men did want to share some thoughts about the recent violence in Omaha.
When asked how they felt about the string of shootings that have rang out in Omaha in recent weeks, the answer was one that is perhaps on the minds of many here–“It needs to stop.” As friends of two of the victims, they exhibit mixed emotions about the situation.
“I’m really hurt,” Lorenzo said, “really; it’s sad.”
“Two out of five, it’s senseless” said Shawn, referring to the number of recent shooting victims he knew. “It’s really disturbing.”
In addition to being saddened, the men have a great deal of animosity about the situation, animosity which leaves them practically speechless. When asked if he would like to say anything to the shooters, Lorenzo just shook his head. “I have a lot of hostility right now,” he said. After pausing for awhile, finally, Lorenzo was able to collect his thoughts. “Try to feel how we feel,” he said.
“How the victim’s families feel,” added Shawn. “I wish they could see how it feels to be victimized. It’s the truth.”
Shawn and Lorenzo see several issues at work here, impacting such situations. “Parents need to be more involved in kid’s lives,” said Lorenzo. “Parents need to be more on the kids that are coming up, they are way beyond what we were.” He also said he sees a need for more youth groups.
Another issue in the eyes of these young men is gun control. “Be more careful about where your guns end up,” says Shawn, “they are coming from somewhere.” Shawn says that gun laws under former President George Bush exacerbated the problem. “So much they are doing–laws changed.” He says that now a 21- year-old can buy a semi-automatic gun.
The recent shootings, while they do have obviously a horrible effect on the families, also impact the community as a whole. We grieve for these young people. We are outraged at these killings. And, for many, there is also a sense of fear. Something does need to be done. The question nobody seems to answer is what.
In part two of this series, we’ll take a closer look at some of the issues involved with gangs–the lives they lead, and the lives they take. I would encourage your comments. Perhaps together we can find solution, if we can only start talking.
Source: personal interviews