Suspect's grandmother follows her conscience, calls at young victim's home

April 12, 1992|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Aloma Single cringed at the thought of visiting the dead girl's family, but it kept nagging at her.

People told her it was a bad idea and that she would only be met with scorn, but she had to do it.

She had to go and give her condolences to the kin of Janet Paula Edwards, the 12-year-old West Baltimore girl whom Mrs. Single's grandson was charged with shooting to death last week.

"It was the hardest thing I've had to do in my life," said the 49-year-old restaurant worker. "But I had to say something."

Her 15-year-old grandson, Tyree "Haney" Paige, a boy she just about raised by herself, has been charged with manslaughter in the April 4 shooting. Witnesses told police that the boy was showing off with a handgun with a bunch of kids when the gun fired. The bullet cut the girl's heart.

Last Monday, less than a mile from Mrs. Single's West Franklin Street home, Beatrice Banks sat in the parlor of her own little rowhouse on Riggs Avenue off of Carey Street, mourning a grandchild that she raised pretty much by herself, a happy girl everybody knew as Paula.

She sat just one door away from the house where Paula died, wondering about how things could go so wrong in the world, when a frightened and grieving Aloma Single showed up.

"When she came I had my pain," said Mrs. Banks, 63. "But I was hoping to ease her pain, too."

"And you were comforting," said Mrs. Single when the women met again the other day. "I could tell by the way you treated me that you were Christian, loving people."

With tears in her eyes, Mrs. Single kept telling Mrs. Banks how bad she felt, over and over, repeating: "I'm so sorry."

Mrs. Banks patted her arm and said, "You don't have to keep telling me that."

The two women are raising extended families in bad neighborhoods. Mrs. Single is the mother of six, with 10 grandchildren. Mrs. Banks, who brought up eight children of her own, said she has so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren there wouldn't be much point in listing them.

In Mrs. Banks' mind, the world could use more loving people and fewer guns, more prayer and fewer drugs, more kids like Harlem Park middle schooler Paula Edwards and not so many street-corner thugs.

And in the midst of it all she can find no hatred for Tyree Paige, the Hamilton middle schooler who is being held in a state juvenile detention center.

"I've never seen the young man to know him, he's more or less a blank to me," she said. "I've had so much just trying to get through the loss of her, the waste. Her life was a waste. God took her out of a hard cruel world and I have to accept that. Accepting it is the hardest thing."

Mrs. Single tried to make amends with Paula's family the day of the shooting. She rushed over before knowing how badly the girl was hurt, but only made it to the front gate. "Someone said the child had died and I passed out right there," she said. "A man from the house came out and put a wet towelon my forehead."

She succeeded on Monday, two days before the girl's burial at Kings Park in Pikesville.

Both devout Christians, the women spent about 15 minutes together. Mrs. Single said when she left she had the peculiar feeling of being forgiven but sadder than ever.

"I felt a little more guilty for what happened because you all were so nice," she told Mrs. Banks.

"I was hoping you'd be relieved," said Mrs. Banks.

"I was," Mrs. Single replied. "But I felt more hurt for your family, you were no longer a stranger."

Today they're not strangers, but they aren't exactly friends, just a couple of women thrown together by tragedy who probably won't see each other again unless by chance. But they are grateful for having met, for the opportunity to cry and talk about God's will for a hometown they see getting more violent by the day.

Mrs. Single said she hears teen-agers talking about buying and selling guns all the time.

"I've always felt the Lord has your life planned out for you. Things happen," she said. "But with this I had to go back to the things I learned in Sunday school for some kind of understanding."

Fixing a gaze on her, Mrs. Banks said: "Jesus looked down on the city and wept for it. I look on this city and I cry, too. My granddaughter and your boy are both victims.

"Mine is a dead victim, and yours is a living victim," she said. "They are victims of our time."

A Grandmother's Plea

Young people lay down your arms,

and open your arms to one another.

There is a storm brewing,

and we need each other.

You are our new beginning,

and if you do this we will be winning.

Life must go on, love must go on.

A gun is power, it's true,

but how would you feel,

when the gun is turned on you?

Beatrice Banks

The grandmother of Janet Paula Edwards, who was shot to death last week, said she wrote the poem to stir the lost youths of Baltimore.

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