My mom called yesterday and said, "Do you know what just happened?" She sounded the saddest I've heard her in years. I figured one of her beloved cats had died and braced myself for the bad news. "Tony just got shot and killed."
"Tony" was Everett "Tony" Collins, my mother's good friend and neighbor. Tony was the guy mom called when she needed something fixed around the house. He could fix anything, and I mean anything. And not just for my mom, but for about half of the neighborhood of Kirkwood. Tony could turn a coffee can into a castle. If he couldn't find a part he'd make one; and he wasn't done until the job was finished and finished right. Tony was a mechanical genius and a perfectionist. A former airplane mechanic, Tony fixed cars, plumbing, wiring, you name it. It would not have been a surprise if my mom called and said, "Tony just glued my cat's leg back on, and it works better than ever!"
But it was more than that. Not only would Tony fix your problem but he did it with wit, charm and shy kindness and a light heart.
Over the years, Tony and my mom became friends. Sometimes my mom, a retired chef, would cook dinner for the two of them, after Tony had finished a job, and he always acted like it was the most delicious meal in the world.
To me, Tony was always the guy working on someone's car in the front yard of his father's house. A divorced father of two grown daughters, Tony was taking care of his aging father and ailing brother. But then, taking care of things is what Tony did.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Tony was walking to a friend's house at about 1:30 p.m. on Friday when a man with a gun approached him, and for reasons that will never really make sense, the man shot Tony. Neighbors say they heard an argument in the moments before the shooting. Police believe that while they still have no suspects or motive, the argument was likely the cause of the shooting.
Within minutes scores of police were on the scene. My mother was struck by the irony of the vast police presence after the fact. And by the casual flippant attitude the police on the scene showed, Kirkwood used to be a neighborhood in which gang killings were a common occurrence. Maybe this leaves cops jaded. Maybe they just didn't know Tony.
According to "WSB News," when he was shot, Tony was walking to the house of his friend Rhonda Young. Ms. Young told reporters, "I just hope they realize the mistake they made, God gives life, you don't take it away."
Tony Collins was a good man. He spent his life helping people, he and his family deserve justice. Lets hope there is a homicide detective who takes pride in his work the way Tony did.
Tony Collins will be missed by everyone who loved him and everyone he helped, and that is a lot of people.
I will forever be haunted by my mom's words, "I just wanted to hold his hand, he looked so lonely lying in the street."