Even as Missourians struggle to come to terms with the overwhelming loss in Joplin from a tornado, those of us in St. Louis are also coping with violence of another sort.
Last month, 7-year-old Jnylah Douglas went outside to play at the playground in her housing complex and was shot in the head.
A suspect has been arrested and charged.
It is believed that Jnylah was the victim of a drug deal gone wrong.
The Friday after Jnylah was shot, I left work with co-workers to attend a midday vigil at the playground inside the Clinton-Peabody Housing Complex where Jnylah Douglas was shot.
It was a beautiful day, the sky high above us filled with cotton ball clouds that floated in a sea of bright blue. A crowd had already assembled, many residents of the housing complex and others, like me, were from neighboring communities.
Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett, who represents the ward where Clinton-Peabody is located, led us through the vigil. A resident spoke about how she had raised her daughter, now an adult, in Clinton-Peabody and then called for renewed unity. She pointed out that nothing like this has ever happened before in the complex and that the alleged assailant was arrested as a result of tips from residents. Jnylah’s grandmother sat on the edge of a slide not far from me, rocking slowly back and forth as supporters held her close.
Throughout the service there was the sound of children.
The scuffle of sneakers as they ran in between the adults.
Mothers hushed them.
Children were captured in hugs…adults holding on tight and the children, sensing the elevation of emotion, looked up in confusion as they struggled to break free and continue their games.
It was a lovely vigil…as lovely as a vigil held for a victim of violence can be. And yet, it was also a powerful reminder of what community means.
I took it all in - the crowd that stood beneath a stunning bright blue sky…children dancing and dodging about…all eyes cast upward as balloons were released.
And when it was all over the visitors dispersed.
May she rest in peace…
…and may we continue to work toward it.