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Hartford’s Gun Violence

'Nick died and everybody said that they were going to stop the stuff. Then somebody killed KJ.'

June 4, 2006
Commentary By Courant

Here are some of the essays that students at Fox Middle School wrote this past week about the recent spate of shootings in Hartford. Their names and identifying comments have been withheld. During a five-day period ending last Sunday, 16 people were shot in several neighborhoods in Hartford's North End. Two of them were Fox Middle School students, one of whom was killed.

It would be easy for me to blame teachers, police officers, Mayor Eddie Perez or Gov. Rell for all the shootings that took place the past few months in Hartford. But they are not to blame. Back in the '70s, '80s and '90s, the police were our worst enemy, but now we are our own worst nightmare.

We young people are on a path of self-destruction, because instead of uplifting each other we bring each other down. Instead of a 16-year-old dropout telling his 9-year-old nephew, "Stay in school," he forces the street life on the child.

We need to take more responsibility in our neighborhoods because if we don't, who will? No one is going to give us anything. We need to bond and work for everything that we want. We need to fix up our streets so maybe the next generation doesn't have to go through this hardship. People of our age group are the ones who are dying, so we need to do something about this situation before it's too late.

His parents might know him as Kerry, but I knew him as KJ, a very charismatic, outgoing, fun-loving young man who was looking forward to living his life until it was so viciously taken away by somebody with no remorse and no concern for somebody else's life.

TT [Nick Oliver] was a friend of mine whose life was taken this year for a reason that is still unsolved. Pote [Heriberto Carrasquillo Jr.] was another friend of mine who didn't even live to see his 18th birthday.

We have to do something about the neighborhoods we live in. If we don't do something, how can we expect anybody else to do something about it?

Dear Mayor Perez and Gov. Rell, I think that you should stay in our 'hood for a day or a week and see how it feels to be out here walking the streets to go to stores, walking to friends' houses, hanging on our porches and even in our homes. It's very hard for a kid or anybody to really be safe and come outside and sit or play. You are even scared to step out the door. Waking up in the middle of the night with police knocking on your door and telling you that one of your family members is gone and you can't see them no more is heartbreaking to all us kids.

I think this shooting in my neighborhood is not right. Four of my friends got shot and two of them died. The kids in my 'hood are not going to stop unless you and the police do something about it. Mayor Perez, you say you are going to do things like get some more police, but that's not going to work because they might kill the police too.

It's so hard to hear that one of your friends died - the one you go to school with, the one you get in trouble with and the one you grow up with. I think our city should have [a curfew] and it should be for everyone. If people are outside past the given time, they should be arrested. Sometimes I am scared not only for me but for my little brother, too. What's going to happen when he gets my age? Is it going to be the same way?

You need to do something now before it really gets bad. I can't say "rest in peace" to all my falling friends.

Kerry Foster was a good boy. He wasn't in a gang. Why him? Why do they do these things to 14- and 15-year-old boys? How can they live with themselves?

Today's generation is crazy. We now have kids killing kids over some little street that they don't even own. I feel that the world is coming to an end. I don't like hearing about people that I know getting shot or killed. I am only 13, and I think I see too much and too much is going on around me.

When I hear about people getting shot, I just sit back and think about my big brother and pray that he will not be outside when the shooting is happening. On Sunday night, I laid in my bed and listened to all the gunshots. I made sure that my brother was by my side. I just don't want to lose nobody in my family or that I am close to by getting shot.

Also these kids that are shooting don't care about nobody. It be broad daylight and a lot of kids be outside playing, but they come by shooting at people. They really don't know who they are shooting at. They are shooting just to be shooting.

I live big dreams of getting out of Connecticut and going to the Air Force for a couple of years, then come out and become a doctor. I am going to make my life better. I want to get my family out of the 'hood so that we don't have to live no more crazy life. All I am asking is to make our city more safe than it is right now, 'cause it's not safe to me!

People are killing each other and themselves. What is their problem? Do they actually believe that if they kill each other they're cool? No, they're criminals. They are just hurting their own people. Gangs are driving us to extinction. They kill people and sleep at night. They don't care about who they hurt in the process. I can't wait to move out of Hartford.

I truly believe that if parents were on top of their game in keeping their children in school and in after-school programs, there would be less violence. Too many young kids keep dying for nothing. This isn't worth it.

Two students from Fox just passed away. Neither of them got to hit high school, they didn't get to go to the prom or make their own family. It's very sad what this world is coming to. I pray. It's scary to know that my life is in danger. Since all these shootings, I try to get good grades and stay out of the streets because I want to see graduation and go to the prom. I want to sit on my front porch and not have to run into the house 'cause shootings are right around the corner. I just start to look in the mirror and thank God for letting me wake up and go to school because KJ can't. I want to go to high school and college for KJ because he couldn't. Rest in peace, KJ.

It's not good for children to be out in the streets, rollin' with gangs and not doing right, because life is too short for people being shot, killed, mothers and fathers having to bury the young.

I mean, how long does this have to go on, 15- to 18-year-olds having guns and bad things on them? It just doesn't make sense. Lots of my friends died doing what? Nothing.

What makes me mad is these kids are young. Some of them didn't get to graduate; some of they didn't get to achieve anything. And what makes it worse is nobody not doing anything. Too many people take it as a joke. It is not funny. Picture your family, your friend being hurt. You're going to want to do something about it. No one deserves to sit up at night and wonder if they are next. It's super hard to get attention so people would understand, but what do community, family, others and I have to do?

I just lost a good friend, Kerry Foster. He passed Sunday night at 11:30 and for what? KJ was a good boy. He did everything right. Why him? I was just thinking about TT [Nick Oliver] and then I said, "Who's next?" The next day my friend called and told me that KJ was gone.

This gang violence is not right. I think every day to myself, "Am I going to see my cousin again or am I going to see my father?" My tears I cry and think to myself, "They can't even go across the stage, they can't go to college, Kerry can't go to Prince Tech and be the football player he wanted to be."

My tears to Nick, Kerry. The memories we had.

I want my community to be fixed. I just lost a friend, someone who had a lot of heart, a person that was funny, cool and respectful. His name was Kerry Foster. Life in this community is terrible. My mom prays for me every day that I will come home. Me, I'm afraid sometimes that I won't be able to come home.

I have lost friends and family to the streets. I think that the gangs are not the only reason why teenagers like me get killed.

Please, please, stop the violence for KJ, for our community and for the children. Life must move on, but it can't with our friends and families on the line. KJ can't have a future, but I know that he probably would want his friends and families to have one.

Most parents think their child is innocent, but they really don't know. Now another parent has lost a child because another parent didn't do the job. Kerry Foster's mom did her job. Her son never shot anybody, didn't really have problems because his mom taught him right. Now she has to sit in an empty house because her only son died by a drive-by. Parents, please sit down and talk to your child. Let them know violence is not the answer.

Everybody needs to stop! Stop hating, stop fighting, stop killing. Why are you doing this stuff? For what? For what reason at all? None of this unnecessary stuff is right. Everybody just needs to get along. People need to give each other respect. They just need to keep everything that happened in the past in the past. Give each other a break; stop always biting at each other's throats.

It almost summer; it is going to be too hot to be trying to hate and trying to kill. People shouldn't get killed for no reason or for petty stuff.

You can always do something valuable with your life instead of going to jails.

Even if people say you can't do nothing or be nothing, even if your parents don't do anything with their life, DO something with yours. Make your parents proud. Be proud of yourselves. You can do it if you put your heart to it.

All of the moms and dads should make sure your child is in the house. Nick died and everybody said that they were going to stop the stuff. Everybody was not there when he could not take care of himself.

Now that he is dead, everybody wants to come and help. Then somebody killed KJ. Now he's gone and I miss him. He was fun to be around, he was nice. RIP, KJ. Come back, KJ. We all love U.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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