When 84-year-old Nell Sheridan was young, people left their doors open, walked unfearingly at night and never worried about being hit by a stray bullet intended for a rival crack cocaine dealer.
Today is a different time.
So far this year, 101 people have been murdered in Baltimore, up from 90 at the same time last year, when the city had a record-approaching 305 homicides. The record is 330 people killed in 1972.
Many experts and politicians blame the omnipresence of drugs and weapons and the recession for the current deadly violence.
"It gives me chills when I think about it," says Sheridan.
"We could walk at night without being afraid. Today, people are afraid to come out. It's bad. It's frightful."
Sheridan was one of 35 people who attended the kickoff meeting last evening for the third annual Love Hands Across Baltimore, an anti-crime event. The meeting was held at the Arena Playhouse in the 800 block of McCulloh St. to work out the kinks for the event, tentatively scheduled June 16.
On that day, people are to join hands from West Baltimore to East Baltimore, or "Hilton to Milton" streets, says the Rev. Willie Ray, one of the event's organizers.
"This is a strategy meeting to protest the violence and murders and to unite the city again on this issue," Ray said.
Ray and others, including City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and Councilman Lawrence Bell 3rd, D-4th, said the public's input, especially from young people, is a must.
"We can overcome this, just the way we've overcome many plagues that affected our society," Clarke told the audience.
The 101 murders are "a dangerous signal," Ray said, adding it's time for people to say "no more!" "Unless we do, we don't know who's next."
Charles Mackey, 53, a city court clerk, said he attended the meeting as a concerned citizen. He also said he knew Lucy McIntyre, the Govans woman fatally stabbed yesterday at home. "I thought she was a very lovely person, very kind," he said. "It was just a shock."
Mackey said people in the inner city, particularly, are potential victims. "You just can't run away from it. It can happen any time, anywhere."
Bell discussed causes of violence. "Ultimately, it's a crisis in values," he said, adding that many people just don't care.
Sheridan agreed, explaining that many parents today don't teach their children morals.
Fran Scott, president of Scott Construction, said crime could be cut by 25 percent if the government provided young people with jobs as an alternative to selling drugs. He said if that happened, many of the drug dealers would leave the corners.
Meanwhile, a group of young people, called KGB for Kids Getting Busy, brought their anti-drug message to the theater last night.
Performing "Crack is Whack," rapper Darren Williams, 21, said: "Crack is whack. It keeps your brains in a daze."
The song was based on the experiences of his brother, who was hospitalized after getting high on crack cocaine. He said his brother is fine now.