I see victims of gun violence on the news all the time, but never thought one of them could be somebody I know.
That was until now.
My friend Reggis Washington was the latest Chicago Public Schools student to be killed as a result of gun violence. He became one of five victims of a bloody two day period, while Chicagoans enjoyed unseasonably warm temps for the beginning of April.
As a citizen journalist, I try to report about issues that a professional journalist might not have time to really research in depth (like the violence in Chicago's toughest neighborhoods). While CNN's Don Lemon brought this issue to international attention with his 2009 special, Chicago's Deadly Streets, the state of safety in disadvantaged areas is one that requires constant awareness.
I've known Reggis since he was about 6 or 7 years old. He was a bright, well mannered and athletic guy. Then at 13, he hit a growth spurt which took me (at 5 foot 9) from looking down towards him to looking up at him (he was about 6 foot 2 or taller). From what I knew, he mostly played baseball and basketball and just liked hanging out with his friends.
He moved to the next neighborhood, but stayed in touch with me. In fact, he surprised me with a call about this time last year. When I looked at the caller ID on my phone, I couldn't believe it. Up until then, the kids I offered to mentor almost never followed up. But Reggis wanted some advice about finding a summer job. He knew that I couldn't teach him sports - because of my athletic inability - but desired guidance from somebody he could respect.
I didn't take that respect lightly and gave him the best tips possible. However, I never imagined that my next conversation concerning him would involve tragedy.
Reggis was only 17. This July, I'll be 26. I wish that I could give him my years instead, so that he could see his 18th, 21st, and 25th birthdays (and beyond). Instead, I'll live my life as a tribute to Reggis.
He moved away again, but not just to heaven - he moved to my heart.