Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Senseless System

This past week, there was another shooting in St. Louis. 
Many media outlets focused on the shooting at the Ferguson Police Department, but there was another shooting that occurred only a few miles away.

Initially, news sources do what they normally do for such incidents: 
A boy was shot and killed near O'Fallon Park around 7:30 PM today. Two others were injured in the shooting. No further details were released.

Usually, that would be the end of the story. Another victim lost in the violence of our city.

The police who responded to the scene found a mass of people overcome with anger, not sure whom to direct it toward. This anger crowded out any human inclination to help the child whose soul was slipping out of his body. A police officer put the dying child on his shoulder and hurried him into his car. With the help of several other officers, this kid was rushed to the hospital. He died. He had lived for 6 years.

This violence occurs far too often in our city, and so, unfortunately, I can imagine how terrible this child's family feels. But for the wider St. Louis community, it seems that we have become so desensitized to such news of terror that another headline about a shooting death does not move us out of our seats. Maybe that's because of where the shooting occurred, in an area we too easily categorize as "dangerous." That's how violence becomes an expectation, not a shock.

One of the officers who tried to save this child happens to be an extremely moving writer, and he documented what happened that night in his own blog. In his moment of remarkable openness, this officer reflects on the child's life, the pain the family must feel, the strain violence places on first responders, and the precarious state of our city. I think his post ought to be required reading for everyone in St. Louis. It would help us all understand how this senseless system hurts us all.

Just yesterday, I visited a school not far from where this shooting occurred. I spoke with staff about the neighborhood, which is still reeling from the economic downturn of 2008. I heard how funding cuts have eliminated important connections between families and schools. I listened to how teachers are expected to get kids to forget about the outside world for a few hours until the last bell rings. I nodded as staff told me they just wanted to give their kids opportunity, that they wanted their kids to have a chance to be kids.

And while I sat and listened and nodded, I thought about that little boy falling asleep on that officer's shoulder. I thought about his classmates being in the middle of some spelling assignment when one of them raises her hand and asks the teacher where the little boy is. I thought about the teacher pausing and looking at these other children working so diligently with their little hands and their crayons before giving an answer. I thought about how these kids probably would just go on doing their work, no matter what the teacher said, this death being another drop in the bucket for lives fated to be lived under the specter of violence. 

For one moment, when an officer put down his stoic shield to reveal his beating heart, we were able to see through our system and view our shared humanity.

The next evening, a 17-year-old was shot in the abdomen on the other side of the city. The teenager was taken to a hospital. No further details were released.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps