There are days when we are convinced our city has never looked so good, has never felt so buoyant and alive, and then reality sinks in.
The Chicago Cubs played three World Series games in Chicago over the weekend, and people watching across the country marveled at the beauty of Wrigley Field, the dazzle of the downtown skyline, the joy in the faces of hundreds of thousands of fans.
But in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood on Friday night, right about the time the Cubs were in the seventh inning of a tight game, 38-year-old Hernando Caster was shot dead. He was the first of 17 people who would be shot and killed between Friday evening and early Monday morning. It was the deadliest weekend of gun violence Chicago has seen since June 2013.
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In the Loop over the weekend, the hot musical “Hamilton” played to full houses every night. But in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Friday, just about the time the play was letting out, Chiquita Ford, 30, and Brian Fields, 30, were shot dead. In South Shore about an hour later, Tyrice Anderson, 30, was shot dead.
Have you checked out Chicago’s lovely new Riverwalk? The final stretch along Wacker Drive opened last week. Tourists on Saturday picnicked on the grass and watched kayakers paddle by. The Riverwalk is sure to be featured in every Chicago travel guide.
But in Auburn Gresham on Saturday, four minutes past midnight, Martell Turner, 25, was shot dead. And in Austin about an hour later, DeMarco Webster Jr. was shot dead. He was just 14.
Several times over the weekend, WTTW-TV aired a big ceremony in Washington at which actor Bill Murray was given the Mark Twain Prize for American humor. Murray is a Chicago boy, so that made us proud, especially when he led everybody in singing “Sweet Home Chicago.”
But in Humboldt Park on Saturday, Deandre Banks was shot dead. He was just 16. In West Englewood, Walter McCurry, 36, was shot dead. In Auburn Gresham, Robert McClinton, 28, was shot dead. In Archer Heights, Luis Corona, 19, was shot dead.
Have you had a chance to walk along the new 606 trail? It’s a brilliant piece of urban reinvention, a park stretched along 2.7 miles of old railroad embankment, and it drew happy families all Saturday and Sunday. The 606 will make all the travel guides, too.
But in Humboldt Park on Sunday, blocks from The 606, Gilbert Leroy Wainwright, 31, was shot dead. In Greater Grand Crossing, Lindsey Anderson, 38, was shot dead. In South Deering, Clara Gonzalez, 31, was shot dead. On the Near West Side, Raqkown Ricks, 19, was shot dead. In Old Town, Edwin and Edward Bryant, 17-year-old twin brothers, were shot dead.
Chicago is a beautiful and vibrant city, parts of it. But we will never swell with civic pride so long as the shame of gun violence continues — and even grows worse. Last weekend’s 17 killings brought Chicago’s homicide tally to 633 for the year. All of last year the city recorded 486 homicides.
As difficult as the challenge is, quelling the violence must be our city’s first priority.
Chicago has a new police superintendent, Eddie Johnson, who promises new ways of policing. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced plans to hire 970 more police officers over the next two years. And a bill could be pushed through the state Legislature as early as this month that would lengthen sentences for most repeat gun offenders.
All of this is to the good. More police officers, all doing a better job, and tougher gun laws are begged for. But also begged for is better parenting, more and better jobs, better schools and more hands-on communities. Easily said, we know. But as Emanuel said in a particularly thoughtful speech in September, there is no other way. Too many of our young people, as he said, “haven’t had a choice.”
We can do more to invest in every neighborhood, school and young person, or we can keep hosing the blood off the sidewalks.
Last weekend’s final killing occurred before dawn on Monday in Englewood. Mark Higgins Jr., 28, was shot dead.
Later that day, the Chicago Bears played the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on national TV. Did you catch the game? Chicago looked glorious — that lakefront, that skyline, those twinkling lights along an orderly grid of streets that ran to the horizon.
The game was good, too, if you were alive to see it.
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