“Damani Henard had been playing video games with his friend and was about halfway home,” says the Chicago Tribune, “when shots rang out in the 5000 block of West North Avenue.” The story continues:
“The detectives came to my sister’s house. They found him laying dead. He was shot once in the head and once in the back of the shoulder,” said Keshia Paige, the boy’s aunt. “He was coming from a friend’s home, going back to Oak Park. It’s maybe a 15-minute ride, a straight shot on North Avenue. He begins at North and Keeler and goes to North and Lombard.”
Lombard Avenue runs parallel to the street I live on, a few blocks to the east.
Damani Henard was fourteen years old. The same age as our son Mark (for another couple of weeks, anyway). He was killed on the way back to his house in the town where we live, coming home from the west side of Chicago just a short distance away. He would have attended Oak Park River and Forest High School in the fall, where Mark will be a sophomore and our older son, Paul, will be a senior.
Tomorrow night, my wife and I and our kids will go to the high school to watch the fireworks like we do every 4th of July. We’ll probably sit in the grandstands at the football stadium where Damani might have played, if he had been lucky enough to make the team.
If he had been lucky enough to live.
I hate like hell when tragedy happens and somebody on the news says, Things like that don’t happen here. Or, Things like that don’t happen to people who live here. They happen here. They happen to people who live here. They happen just a short distance away, on the west side of Chicago, where people don’t have the privilege to live in the relative safety of our little suburb.
It’s easy to pretend that where Damani was killed was, you know, over there. In Chicago. Across some imaginary border that separates kids who get killed from kids who live to go to high school. You know what I think? I think we say that, because we want to believe that that border separates more than municipalities. It separates us from them.
But Damani Henard was us.
One more light goes out in America …