Just 20 days ago, Vocational senior Everett Henderson Jr. was as close as it comes to being another grim statistic of Chicago’s surge in violence: Death by a hail of bullets.
He was shot twice in his hand, twice in his butt, once in his chest and once in his stomach. Even when it looked like he would pull through, doctors told his mother, Kawada, that he’d have to spend time in a wheelchair and that his athletic career was likely over.
The doctors underestimated the 17-year-old’s ability to heal. Not only that, Henderson has already returned to school and he’s planning to play basketball in December, he said Thursday.
“The doctors are amazed,” Kawada Henderson said. “They said he was a miracle. They told me that no one gets shot this many times and lives, much less recovers like this.”
In a year in which Chicago already surpassed the number of homicide deaths in all of last year, Henderson Jr. is one of the lucky ones. Among the 501 who were shot dead this year, more than 2,600 others were shot and lived as of late Thursday, far more than any other city in the nation.
Even playing sports — the usual save haven for inner-city kids — is no match when gunfire erupts while you’re sitting on a porch in the late summer in Chicago.
Henderson was making a name for himself in the city this football season, scoring multiple touchdowns a game for the Cavaliers. Colleges were interested and things seemed to be going his way after an up-and-down high school career. Then on Sept. 10, just hours after a football game, the violence that has overwhelmed the city this year touched him in brutal fashion.
Henderson, a 5-9, 183-pound running back, lives on the Far South Side, the 10900 block of South Eberhart, with his mom, dad and three brothers. The story about Sept. 10 is difficult to hear — but has become all too familiar this year.
“I was on the porch,” Henderson recalled. “A car rolled by and stopped about three houses down. My brother was there with a girl and they both ran in the house. I looked down at my phone and not even 10 seconds later it happened. He ran up on the porch and I was just shocked. He was running at me and he had a gun. He didn’t have the gun loaded and that gave me a couple seconds to run. When I ran, he finally cocked it, shot me twice in my hand. I tried to turn to the back of my house and he shot me twice in my butt. And then I fell, got back up, and started running. When I fell again I finally just curled up.
“I looked up four different times and the fourth time I looked I saw that the gun was empty. I got back up, hopped around the house and heard my pa’s voice and I said, ‘I’m over here.’ I only felt two shots, but he shot me six times.”
Henderson doesn’t like telling the story of that evening. He doesn’t even want to think about it.
“When I think about it I shed a couple tears,” Henderson said. “I just want to move on with my life. One thing, I’m really glad I didn’t run into the house because I had family members in the house.”
Henderson doesn’t know why he was targeted. He thinks it was a case of mistaken identity. The shooter is still at large.
“I kind of saw his face,” Henderson said. “He didn’t run away after the shooting. He walked to the car, so my pops saw his face. The police keep asking me questions, they keep coming back to get on top of it. I’m giving them as much information as I can.”
Henderson isn’t just a football and basketball player. He swims, dives and plays water polo. His mom thinks all that activity kept his body strong and helped him heal. He’s still hoping that sports will help him get to college.
“Freshman year I decided that I was going to do as many sports as possible to see what I was the best at,” Henderson said. “So far it had been football. But now I’m kind of scared to get hit in my stomach, so I’m thinking basketball. I have to work hard this season to get scouts looking at me.”