Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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Lonsberry: THE 10-YEAR-OLD IN THE BACK SEAT

        When I was 10, on a Saturday morning at breakfast, my step-father slumped over dead of a heart attack. I ran upstairs to the apartment of a lady who wore a nurse’s uniform to work and watched moments later as she slammed her fist against his chest while my mother looked on sobbing.

 

               That was a bad day.

 

               In a way, I’ve never gotten over it.

 

               I remember how the sorrow and the weeping wouldn’t go away, how there was no relief, how that affected a person of my age.

 

               Of the age of the child in the backseat of the car against the tree last night at Congress and Pioneer.

 

               It was the second homicide of the night.

 

               Congress and Pioneer are a little south of Brooks, in the 19th Ward. There are houses and apartments and churches, and most of the yards are well kept. Jets on approach to the airport roar overhead and on the breeze to the east there are sometimes the strains of the carillon at the university across the river.

 

               There was a man in the car, and a woman, and the 10-year-old.

 

               And the other sound of the city pealed out. The signature sound of the streets of the most dangerous place in most of America. Memphis and Chicago and Detroit get the headlines, but Rochester digs the graves.

 

               There was a man in the car, and a woman, and the 10-year-old.

 

               And there was gunfire, and it struck the car, and the man slumped over dead at the wheel, the car careening out of control, striking the tree, and the man and the woman were covered in blood.

 

               And they say the child was uninjured.

 

               But I know that is wrong.

 

               I know that child is injured in a way that won’t heal. Not in this life.

 

               It wasn’t my blood father who died in front of me all those years ago, and it wasn’t his blood father who died in front of him last night. But it was his world that blew up. In a moment, a child saw evil and loss in a way most of us never will, and likely couldn’t endure if we did. The gunfire and the bullet strikes and the veering car and the collision and the uncertainty, and your mother in the front seat, bleeding and in pain.

 

               That was right around kickoff time.

 

               The country was watching a football game, the first of the new season, and Rochester was doing what Rochester does. It was bleeding.

 

               It was bleeding, and proving anew that to a raging and enfettered portion of its population, no lives matter. Nearly two months into a mayoral state of emergency, with extra deputies and troopers propping up the defunded city department, and the night’s tally was two homicides, a savage stabbing and some desperados pumping a house full of bullets. The rain went away and the thugs came out.

 

               And maybe the car was targeted and maybe it wasn’t. Bullets fly far and free, and they hit what they hit, and they don’t care what they do to the lives of fifth-graders.

 

               And neither does anybody else. Not more than a couple of paragraphs or a few seconds on the evening news. The mayor is still wearing expensive tailored suits, the police chief is trying to raise a beard, they swore in the new out-of-town deputy chief to kiss the activists’ asses, the party in power is pretending the election is about abortion, and the governor is clucking about her new gun law. It’s status quo ante. Same shit, different day.

 

               And the weather forecast says more will die soon. Maybe today, maybe tonight, certainly before Sunday’s afternoon games. More yellow tape, more blood to hose off the street, more evidence markers strewn across streets and sidewalks and yards.

 

               More little kids who’ll never be the same.

 

               It used to be the signature Rochester metric was how big the Kodak bonus was. Now it is how high the homicide tally goes. Last year was a record, this year will be another record. And the people in power will still be in power, and the pimps will still be the pimps.

 

               But I repeat myself.


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