John's bedroom in North Philadelphia looks like the typical bedroom of an 18-year-old boy. Trophies line the shelves, jerseys are pinned to the walls. His mother, Stephanie, tried everything she could to shelter him from the drugs and violence in their neighborhood. Her efforts seemed to be working -- John graduated from high school and was studying engineering at a local college.
Despite Stephanie’s best efforts, John got into a petty spat with a local clique. It quickly turned deadly and John was gunned down in cold blood, just blocks from their home. John's 16-year-old killer, now in jail, created a You Tube video bragging about the murder.
Stephanie takes Ling to John's room, where she often goes to pray. It's been six years since she lost her only child, and it hasn't gotten any easier.
After John was killed, Stephanie explains his death ignited a series of retributions in the neighborhood.
"It was a retaliation from this side to that side," Stephanie says. "From all that, six murders happened. We lost six men."
"All of us without a son, some kids without a father," she says, shaking her head. "Retaliation."
Ling asks Stephanie how many mothers she knows who have lost their children to violence in Philadelphia.
"Personally, friends, about 30," Stephanie says.
"You know 30 women who have lost kids?" Ling repeats in disbelief.
"Yes," Stephanie nods.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more