The anatomy of a statistic: a consequence of murder

March 23, 2001|By Kate Pipkin

MY MOTHER'S friend, Devron, is 55. That is, he was the 55th person murdered in Baltimore City this time last year.

So far, the murder rate for 2001 is about the same. We should not just count the dead, however, but the number of lives affected by the murders. Such a count would be more accurate, far more staggering. It would include people like my mother, who was Devron's tutor.

Devron and my mother couldn't be more different. She is a 60-something white woman living in the suburbs. He was a 16-year-old African-American growing up in a tough neighborhood on Baltimore's West Side. Devron's mother, Joyce, made sure her son had a tutor. She knew he had great potential and encouraged him to stay true to himself and his dreams.

With his infectious smile and eagerness to learn, my mother became fond of Devron quickly. He said he wanted to be a chef after he graduated from high school, and they spoke about cooking school.

In addition to English, my mother taught him poetry and even some Greek mythology. Devron laughed at the funny name of the Greek hero, Agamemnon. He loved the way the word tickled his tongue as it flowed out. Agamemnon.

Over the years, my mother and Devron became closer. One Sunday, my mother attended a service at his church. Devron ran into the street to greet her and gave her a big hug, not hesitant in the least to show his emotions. My mother said she hoped he would get married some day and have children because he would be such a good father.

Then, on a cool night last March, it was all gone -- graduation, cooking school, the some-day marriage, Agamemnon. Devron was shot in the chest because of a teen-age argument that was settled with a gun. He died in the small lobby of a carry-out restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue. My mother called me the next morning in tears. She was devastated.

Since Devron's death, his mother and mine have become closer.

Two women who would most likely never cross paths have established a friendship out of the ashes of a tragedy. Devron's death fractured his family, and they will never be the same. Joyce's greatest fear of losing her son to Baltimore's tough streets came real.

My mother will never be the same, either.

The reality of what happened to Devron and his family, and what happens to families all over Baltimore, hit her hard. Yes, Devron is a statistic, a number in a city full of bloodstained numbers. But his essence remains in the broken hearts of his family and friends, including my mother, who know what Devron could have become.

Kate Pipkin writes from Baltimore.

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