“Okay Marty, again thanks. I really appreciate it.”—Aaron
That was the last thing I received from Aaron, one of my youth reps, before he was gunned down in the Little Village neighborhood on Chicago’s Near-West side.
Aaron was a smart kid. A funny kid. A generous, kind, loving kid. He was at most 22. He leaves behind a little boy, just over a year old, friends, family, and a hole in the program I run at the Juvenile Court.
I found out about a half hour ago that today—his birthday—he was shot and killed while with another young person. I do not know what happened. I do not know why he was shot, who shot him, who the other young person was, or what happens next. All I know is that the world is a much darker place with-out Aaron.
Aaron would laugh at the dumbest, stupidest jokes. Whenever he walked into a room, he would shake everyone’s hand—everyone, I mean it—and look them in the eye to introduce himself. He was short, about 5’7 or so, but he could fill a room if he wanted to. He would call and say if he was running late, he would call when he would make it home.
He always said please and thank you.
He wanted to go into the FBI to make the world a better place for his son. But college is expensive, and he was not sure it was for him. And yet. And. Yet. He was always looking on how to learn to do more.
Aaron was eager to do more for JAC. When he took a break in June of this year, I knew it was because he was picking more hours at one of his two jobs. When I saw him last, another youth rep and I dropped off his pay check AND he was committing to applying to the court scholarship program. He had made up his mind. College, in fact, was for him.
That was the last I heard from him until August. He sent me a text message and said he missed the program, missed the staff and that he was going to be back once he handled some problems he was going through. I offered to help. That’s when he said thanks, and that he appreciated it. That was the last I heard from him.
I was lucky—or blessed if you prefer—to know Aaron. He was amazing. Proof that young people can change. His loss does not mean that he failed. It means that we failed. The city, the county, the system. We failed him.
My grief is palpable, measurable. I know from experience with grief that there will come a point where I will be able to deal with it. But that is not what I focus on. I am worried for Aaron’s son. I mourn for his parents. I mourn for his neighborhood. I mourn with the young people I work with. I mourn with the community agency that worked with him. My grief is so small by comparison, but it is still there. It connects me to all the people Aaron was connected to. And that is some small degree of comfort.
Good by Aaron. I still miss you.