Sometimes I write about shootings that result in the deaths or injury to dozens. Sometimes I rail on about the nearly one hundred Americans who die every day as a result of gun violence. Just recently I wrote about the relative safety of the route I take on my bicycle commute to school every day. All of this came rushing together as I rolled past the intersection of High Street and Congress Avenue. A thirty-seven year old man was shot and killed there this past Tuesday.
I know his friends called him Dre.
I know he was loved.
I know this because of the number of candles and inscriptions on the wall of the convenience store that have been left there since. The empty bottles left by mourners compete with the burning wicks, kept lit night and day. The local news had this to say: "A nineteen-year-old man was arrested Tuesday night as a suspect in the fatal shooting five hours earlier of another man in East Oakland, police said Wednesday."
This is not an obscure act in Oakland. The seemingly randomness of it does not take into account the terrible repetition. Guns going off in neighborhoods all over Oakland, so many that the city has employed a system called "Shotspotter," a computer aided listening system that can be used to detect gunfire on the streets and yards and alleys and everywhere else guns might be going off. Or they could rely on the eyes and ears of passersby on a busy thoroughfare like High Street at four o'clock in the afternoon.
Last Tuesday, I was wrapping up my after school program at my school at four o'clock. I walked my fourth and fifth grade students who were working on a community service project to bring more kindness into their world to the front steps. That was when Dre was shot. I went back to my room and cleaned up some loose ends. I left just after four thirty. That was when Dre was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. When I came over the hill, four blocks away, yellow tape was blocking the intersection where the altar would be mounted over the next few nights. Dre's friends waited until the police had cleared the corner and picked up their cones and other caution and investigation reminders.
And that's when the monument began.