Thursday, June 23, 2005

In Harm's Way

For about 5 years my office has been helping Tondrea, a single mom with 4 children and 1 grandchild who hovers at the poverty line despite the fact that she has a job at the Census Bureau. Recently this family moved out of the dangerous drug-infested public housing project across the street from the Census Bureau into a house on a quiet street. I breathed a sigh of relief that none of them had ever been touched by all the bullets that constantly whiz through the Suitland air.

On Wednesday morning I got an e-mail message from one of Tondrea’s coworkers saying that Tondrea’s 19-year-old daughter Aisha had been the victim of a drive-by shooting on Tuesday night. She was struck in the neck by two bullets and likely paralyzed from the neck down. She lay in the ICU of a local hospital, living on a ventilator. I was in shock, not knowing any of the specifics of the incident.

Today I spoke to Tondrea, who seems to be holding up incredibly well given the strain that she is under. It turns out that the whole family was there, as they made a stop in the old neighborhood to pick up someone for Aisha’s sister’s birthday party. As Aisha pushed others to the ground when the shooting started, she didn’t get there herself.

What can anyone do to move the black cloud hanging over this family? Tondrea asks us all to pray for Aisha. But I am practical enough to know that prayer may not make Aisha walk again. This 19-year-old may be condemned to life in total paralysis. She will watch her young daughter grow up, never being able to hold her again. I find this all incredibly sad.

Witnesses to this incident have identified those who fired the shots at some boys who escaped unscathed, but seeing them go to jail will do little to right this very wrong situation.

Tondrea has always had the ability to deal well with adversity. She is tough and street-wise. When she talks to children from that old neighborhood, they listen and do whatever she says. I fear that this may be a challenge that even Tondrea just can’t deal with.

I will pray for Aisha... and for Tondrea too.

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