Another grievous loss

Christian Ludwig: Baltimore's killing fields claim another victim - one of uncommon promise.

May 23, 2000

AFTER YEARS of hard work, Christian W. Ludwig happily prepared for his graduation from the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore.

He was a top student - but more than that a friend and leader among his classmates, someone whose spirit was uplifting for those around him. He had two kinds of days, friends said, "good days and great days."

He made them feel as if they were at least as important as the goals he pursued. So when one of them was accosted by a purse snatcher on Saturday night in his Ridgelys Delight neighborhood, Mr. Ludwig ran after the robber.

He overtook the thief - but was fatally stabbed as he attempted to recover the purse.

The 26-year-old Mr. Ludwig had just completed four years of grueling work, including his dental board examination. He was scheduled to graduate on Friday.

Sadly, the impulse to help a friend cannot be obeyed in a city where death may easily be the result. Prudent city dwellers - not just in Baltimore - will silently condition themselves to that moment when a gun is pointed, a knife drawn and a demand made.

The objective: Not to save a purse or a wallet, but a life.

That Christian Ludwig responded to his instinct can only be a credit to the exemplary person he was. But everyone who knew and loved him wishes he had seen the purse as a price easily paid.

Murder in Baltimore has long been a public health menace as threatening as many diseases, certainly more immediate and undeniably indiscriminate. Every life lost sends a tremor into the soul of the city, leaves a gap that can never be filled.

So far this year, Baltimore's murder rate shows no sign of slackening. Christian Ludwig was the 116th life lost to crime this year. That figure means the already appalling murder rate in this city is accelerating.

Baltimoreans will try to preserve their outgoing and friendly style - particularly to lovers of life, particularly to people like Christian Ludwig. Now, though, expressing its sympathy to his family, the city simply mourns.

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