The politicians and police reassure us that, if you're not involved in gangs or drugs, you have little to fear from the street violence that has claimed a record-tying 44 Allen County lives so far this year.
But even if that's true û even if most of the victims' chosen lifestyles contributed to their deaths – their children would be blameless, no less deserving of support than anyone else whose lives have been irreparably changed by cruelty they did not cause and can scarcely comprehend.
And so, on Dec. 21, the Fort Wayne Urban League will host “Christmas Not Forgotten” which, as the title suggests, will be a holiday party of sorts for the boys and girls too often overlooked when their caregivers become just another statistic.
“I can't do anything about the loss, but I can do something for the children left behind. (After a murder) they often feel left alone, but they have a common bond, and it helps to let them know that we know they exist, and that somebody cares” said Urban League President Jonathan Ray, whose organization hopes to raise about $2,500 so it can provide a dinner, gifts and a visit with Santa to children who have seen far too little good will or peace on Earth lately.
Children like 3-year-old MariAnna Adams, whose father, Demarcus, became homicide victim No. 8 in March when he was gunned down near Abbott and McKee streets. MariAnna's grandmother, Denise Trigg, said Thanksgiving was especially difficult because her late son was not there to carve the turkey. Coming together at Christmas with people who understand exactly what she has been experiencing will help, Trigg said, even though her granddaughter is too young to fully understand why Daddy is no longer around.
“We don't want to say 'murder' yet. She knows Daddy is with Jesus, and that when the moon is out he is looking down on her,” said Trigg, who said her son was not involved in criminal behavior before his death. She believes he was targeted by people who thought he was involved in an earlier shooting.
The Urban League held its first “Christmas Not Forgotten” event in 2009, but the party ended after 2010, when crime-scarred children between the ages of 1 and 16 attended. But with this year's spike in violent crime, Ray – who has taken the lead in efforts to stem the tide – thought it was time to reinstate a program he believes is essential, but would like to render obsolete.
James Hall, an Urban League intern who has been working on the project, said the community has been “very receptive.” Still, less than half of the needed money has been raised so far. All donations will go directly to the children, Ray said.
As for Trigg, she isn't waiting around for a Christmas miracle to stop the insanity that killed her son. An outspoken critic of the street “survival of the fittest” culture immediately after Adams' death, she urged parents to become more involved in their children's lives and implored residents of crime-ravaged neighborhoods to cooperate with police.
And now, even as she tries to cope with what happened, she is also working to organize a neighborhood march that will encourage people overcome their fear and fight back against the thugs in their midst.
“I'm old school, and I'm not stopping. I'm pouring myself into this,” she vowed.
But for one night, the cause will pause so Trigg and her granddaughter can unite with so many others who have also experienced the unthinkable. And in that bond, Ray hopes, they may find strength.
And, just maybe, some Christmas joy.