A twelve year old boy named Miguel was shot dead in the street by a stray bullet from some gang crap. It happened four days ago in broad daylight on our corner. We are forced to turn down that way each time we leave our house because of the arrangement of one-way streets. That day, we couldn't turn because of the several cop cars and screaming people that occupied the block. We wondered what happened but pretty much went about our day unaffected because of the inherent desensitivity to such sights one inevitably acquires when living in the city. It wasn't until later that we learned what had really happened there; the terrible event made apparent by a makeshift memorial that had been erected by Miguel's family and friends at the scene of the accident.
Aparently his father owns the small grocery store down the block from where it happened and one of its brick walls is now dedicated to preserving the memory of Miguel and forcing onlookers to know what happened to him there. There are short yearbook-like blurbs and messages scrawled across it by other neighborhood kids saying things like "we'll always love our little papito" and such. There is a little wooden table overflowing with candles and flowers below a huge picture of Miguel himself, alive and smiling, in football playing garb.
The day after Miguel was shot, the event made national news and was of course particularly emphasized here in Chicago. Everywhere we went people were talking about it. There was even a huge parade down our street of 'awareness raisers', mostly white people I had never seen before in my life.
Despite the attention people are attempting to give this tragedy, I almost resent the way some people are wearing it on their sleeve that they care. All I can think about is the people who knew and loved this boy for twelve years and have now lost him because of complete and utter stupidity, the likes of which I don't see ever coming to an end. Don't worry, I am not going to start talking about the semantics of poverty and gang activity here. I think that crap goes without saying at this point.
I consciously avoided walking up to the memorial for two days, not wanting to get in the way of the grieving family or deal with the cops who were constanly 'guarding' the scene. Finally, my friend Mark and I smoked a J on my front stoop and strolled around the corner in the middle of the night to pay our respects. We were all alone; it was really late. The cop on duty was asleep in his car. We stood there reading the countless dedications on the wall and just cried for a boy we had never met and who no one will ever meet again.
This reached national news? I hate people.

Half hour segment: Boy, 12, shot dead in Chicago.
Not mentioned: 50,000 people die of starvation every day.
Small mention: 40% of the US population is overweight.

Fifteen minute segment: Consumers are upset about high gas prices. "At $2.00 per gallon, it costs me almost $40 to fill up my new SUV," says one single mother.
Not mentioned: Over 100 species go extinct every day (Public demands more pollution controls for big business).

In the summer of 2007, my girlfriend and I went to my hometown's (the quiet, little town of Vienna, VA, best known for the Russian spy Robert Hanssen) Independence Day fireworks. Her parents were planning on meeting us there. Vienna's Independence Day celebration is known for being one of the most intimate fireworks displays in the area, and was always a good time to see old friends who I no longer played little league with, nor rode the bus to high school with. I ran into a friend I've had since I was 3 at this, but under the most unfortunate of circumstances to meet someone under.

Me and my girlfriend had decided to walk to the fireworks, as it was a beautiful summer night, but we got a late start, and were still walking down Park Street with 3 blocks left to go as the fireworks got underway. We had, at this point, given up on catching up with her parents before the fireworks, and we tried to call them to tell them that we'd meet them later.

The fireworks were spectacular, as usual, until 5 minutes from the end. As the finale was starting, something I had never seen happened. Fireworks shot parallel to the ground. One flew into the dugout of the softball field at our community center. Another one flew towards the community center's playground, full of many young kids and parents.

At this point, everyone's mind was not on the fireworks anymore, but onto the fact that mortars blasted into the crowd. The rest of the fireworks was a blur. Me and my girlfriend were frantically trying to reach her parents, but could not reach them. We quickly found my family, as a swarm of ambulances descended on Vienna.

Eventually, the local firefighters started clearing the field. My old friend John, now working as a firefighter, was screaming at people to move:

A helicopter is coming!

My family stayed there and tried to figure out what was going on. My girlfriend and I walked home. She was worried about her parents, and still couldn't reach them, so she drove home. Luckily, her parents were fine.

The next day, I found out via my brother John that a mortar had exploded and had badly burnt a mother and her infant, and given a penetrating brain injury to the mother's 8 year old kid. Luckily, their father had been at home. All this from summer fun. Independence Day won't be the same in Vienna again.

In the end, this turned out to be similar to Apollo 13. The fireworks had been manufactured in china, and had been defective. There had been problems caused by these defective fireworks throughout the United States.

A month later, tragedy struck again. In my quiet little neighborhood, the silence was broken by a loud bang, and the ensuing fire engines. Later, the now-familiar whirr of a helicopter ruined the beautiful summer day. Two 10 year olds had been playing on the vacant lot abutting Midgetville, right behind my house, with a bottle rocket. This said bottle rocket blew up in their faces.

None of this may have made national news, but it's still tragic. There are kids whose lives are drastically different now, all due to innocently celebrating the birth of our country, and just wanting to have fun.

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