Violence wastes another city life

March 25, 2007|By DAN RODRICKS

I would like to keep the Christopher Clarke story alive for another day, and this time with the photographs from his funeral. The deaths of young men in Baltimore come and go like flashes of intermittent gunfire on some dark, distant battlefront. But we should pay attention to this one. We should not let it go.

We should not shake our heads and quickly turn the page.

We should talk to the boy's mother.

We should look at the photographs.

We should be outraged by the senseless death of Christopher Clarke on Tuesday, March 13 -- at least as outraged as many were over the arrest, the same day, of a 7-year-old for riding a dirt bike.

The mayor apologized for the arrest of the kid on the dirt bike. The whole city seemed to be in an uproar for several days, and the story made national news.

The other night in the neighborhood where Christopher Clarke was killed -- an innocent bystander to a street shooting -- there was a vigil and march. Maybe 75 people attended.

There should have been thousands.

This city -- this metropolitan area, this state -- needs to get into a 10-alarm uproar over these killings in Baltimore.

Christopher Clarke's death should not pass without something more than a funeral.

We lost a good one here -- 18 years old, a student, musician and lacrosse player, handsome and athletic, polite and well-liked by his friends and the adults at his church.

"I'm going to miss my smiles and my hugs," an elderly mourner told Christopher's mother, Anita Ann-Marie McDonald, Thursday at Shiloh Church of God 7th Day, on Edison Highway in Belair-Edison.

There were as many people inside the church as outside.

Baltimore police provided a motorcycle escort to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens because Christopher, a Business and Finance Academy senior at Patterson Senior High, had enrolled in the city police academy.

"Christopher was always very military-minded and disciplined," his mother said. "In his senior year, he was wondering whether to go to college or go into the Army. ... So he settled on being a police officer and was very serious about it, did all his own research, and he was going to be a cadet."

Until the evening of March 13.

Christopher left his job at Burger King on Kane Street in East Baltimore and stopped at a friend's house, a couple of blocks from his own on Mayfield Avenue.

"His stepfather and I always made sure we knew who Christopher's friends were," said his mother. "We were very protective of him. We always needed to know where he was at all times."

It is believed that, after Christopher left his friend's house on Cliftmont Avenue and walked toward his Kia Sportage, gunfire erupted.

Three young men were wounded.

Two of them survived. Police found Christopher under a car; he had either crawled there or fallen there.

His death was one of four in separate and unrelated shootings within 24 hours in the eastern part of the city.

His school newspaper was filled with emotional shout-outs from classmates and teachers.

"You were, to me, the embodiment of limitless potential," one teacher wrote. "One had only to know you to know that you were going to be something special."

"I had known Christopher since he was born," said the pastor of Shiloh Church, Romency Blackwood. "He was so different. He didn't belong in the gangs or in the drug life. ... The world has lost someone it did not get to know. The church has lost a young man who would one day be a great leader; I saw that potential in him. A woman has lost a husband who would have character and strength to offer, and a child has lost a great father. All this was lost."

Attention must be paid to the death of Christopher Clarke, on March 13, 2007, in Baltimore. We should not let it go.

dan.rodricks@baltsun.com

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