I walked into the west side Detroit church on Friday, after standing in line outside a short time and immediately was overwhelmed.
I saw so many teens. Some wearing "R.I.P" t-shirts, some dressed up, some casual, all clearly overcome emotionally. The atmosphere was thick and the mood incredibly somber. The anxiousness with which I approached this occasion, a funeral for a slain Detroit teen, was heightened right away, and I wasn't sure how to handle it. But my emotions mattered little, because I was also consumed with the fact that parents I knew there that day were saying goodbye to their son.
I pray for the safety of my wife and child everyday -- literally -- and can't imagine what I would do, nor how I would feel if I lost either of them. Condolences didn't even begin to describe what I wanted to convey to the Justin's parents, who learned that their son was murdered a week earlier. I wanted to give them so much more. We have all heard so many times how no one should ever have to bury their child, but in our community, we just never no when it could happen.
Too many children in metro Detroit are dying, and most die senselessly. This was the case with Justin. His mom says he was killed with an assault rifle, allegedly by some people he thought were his friends. She says they wanted to rob him.
All I could think about was what could a teenager have that was so valuable someone felt a need to shoot him over with an AK-47? The reality, I suspect, is that he was killed like so many in our community are, over some ignorant bull. Isn't that what most young people who are gunned down on our streets murdered for? Nothing?
Then my thoughts returned to all of those other teens in the church that day. They were crying and hugging each other, clearly overcome with grief. Tears flowed like drops in a rain storm.
I marveled at how many of them there were in the church, which was absolutely packed to the rafters. One couldn't help but think this was one of Detroit's sons we couldn't afford to lose. You don't see that many kids, that many people, grieve that hard unless that is the case.
The irony is that so many of the young people there that day seemed like funeral veterans, with their shirts and signs, they were prepared to take on the unfortunate task of burying another one of their peers, a classmate. That is truly a travesty. Young people shouldn't have to live like this. Remember when making a team, or prom, or sneaking of with that special someone, or sneaking out to that live party your parents said you couldn't go to were the most important things in the world? Yeah, grades mattered too, but come on, we were all teens once.
I have yet to see a report about suspects in the shooting being arrested. In fact, I'm still hoping to hear about the arrest of the two gunmen who ran through the streets in broad daylight and shot seven teens near Cody High School earlier this summer. No word on that so far. I'm hoping the fools who shot Justin are caught and prosecuted.
My prayer tomorrow (and from now on) will not only be for my child's safety, but for his preservation. And I will more greatly treasure every moment with him.