My wife wants to move to Abington, where used condoms don’t litter dark driveways and the sound of gunshots is rare. I want to stay in Philadelphia, where my great grandmother worked to build a life when she left the South 70 years ago.
But despite my affection for the city I’ve always called home, I sometimes wonder if my wife is right about leaving. I certainly wondered on August 28.
It was a sunny afternoon, and as I drove my family home from a trip to a suburban store, we stumbled upon a scene I’d written a thousand times. Crime Scene Unit officers milling about collecting evidence. Media personalities speaking gravely into cameras. Onlookers gathering near crime scene tape with a mix of curiosity and fear. I’d seen it all in the quiet of my mind as I wrote each of my crime novels. This was different, though. This was real, and it was mere blocks from my house.
“I wonder what happened,” my 10-year-old daughter Eve said from the backseat.
I remained silent, though I knew in my gut that someone had been murdered. Right across the street from the place where Eve had attended kindergarten, just steps from the church where my family had worshipped for the better part of three years, and right outside the Jamaican restaurant we’d passed more times than I could count.
“Can we go back and see what happened?” asked seven-year-old Little Solomon.
“We’re not doing that,” I said, hoping he would drop the subject.
He didn’t, and neither did Eve.
They continued to ask questions until we pulled up in front of our house. Then they both rushed inside and plopped down in front of two different televisions, frantically searching for a clue that would tell them what had transpired.
“We’re famous,” Eve said half-jokingly as she flipped through the channels. “The news van is around the corner from our house.”
My wife, LaVeta, cautioned our children that it wasn’t about fame, but neither of them was listening. They were too consumed by their quest for the truth.
Quietly, my wife went online and confirmed my gut feeling. A man had been killed. A few minutes passed before the questions began again.
“Did you find out what happened?” Eve asked anxiously.
My wife and I exchanged a glance. Then I sat our children down and told them that a man had been shot to death by bad people. I later learned that the victim’s name was Renford Levy. The 36-year-old father of seven was shot 10 times, the bullets slamming into his face, neck, chest, back, both arms and one of his legs.
Why do we hold on and raise our children here?
It’s simple. Philadelphia is worth the fight.
On our quiet street, bank managers and police officers, politicians and teachers, blacks and whites and Hispanics live together in peace. Neighbors look out for each other. Children play safely, and people work to build a better life.
That’s the Philadelphia my great grandmother envisioned when she left South Carolina. That’s the Philadelphia I’ll be writing about in this blog. That’s the Philadelphia I’ve come to know and love. Ten bullets aren’t enough to make me leave.