This essay was originally published by The Beat Within, a justice system writing workshop.
Back in the early 1970s, I watched my favorite TV show: “Emergency.” As a child I dreamed of becoming a fireman just like the firemen on “Emergency.”
Every time the bell would ring and the big, red shiny engine fifty-one would leave the station on a run, I would imitate it with my fire truck. Also, I pictured myself going to rescue a stranded person or putting out a fire.
As I grew older, the innocence I once had as a child was lost. That was when my neighborhood became heavily infested with drug dealers and violent gang members. Living in the neighborhood became an
everyday struggle just to survive.
The drug dealers began to fight one another over who’s going to control the drugs. Then the rival gang
members started to do drive-by shootings and innocent people got shot or murdered.
Living in the inner city, I felt like I was in the middle of two nations who were at war with one another. Sadly, I watched the helicopters flying over the crime scene while the ambulances and the police arrived late as always.
Then I saw a mother who just lost a child to gang violence scream a scream that no other mother should have to scream. The gang violence and drug dealing got so bad that I would see dead bodies lying in the middle of the streets, in vacant apartments, and in the alleys, as well as seeing women being physically, sexually and emotionally abused by the one they love.
I started to wonder if I was really safe in my own neighborhood–and do the police even care?
Dealing with the traumatic death of my grandpa in my own life, I felt like nobody gave a damn about me and what I was going through, so why should I care about them?
So I became numb, heartless, desensitized to violence; and I dehumanized other people, which made it easy for me to hurt them and not feel anything. I exchanged pain for pain.
Today, as a 45-year-old young man, I no longer believe and feel that way. Because I’m incarcerated for taking another human being’s life and being in restorative justice, I realize the pain, grief, and suffering that a mother, father, sister and brother go through after losing someone they love through violence.
Even though my grandpa is resting in peace I made a vow to my grandpa not to ever harm another human being again, and I mean it from the heart.
Despite my not being able to become a fireman, I’m still able to rescue others and put out fires. This time I do it by sharing my story of “The Little Boy Who Lost His Dream.”