The wailing is stark. Frantic. Heartbreaking.
It began outside on a lawn, and its plea was loud enough to carry inside the walls of a nearby home. It traveled through the background of a 911 call, and quickly spread across the consciousness of an entire nation.
It eventually ended with the sharp sound of a gunshot.
Forty-six days of outrage later, that cry for mercy has finally been answered.
Maybe you are convinced that the pitiful wail was Trayvon Martin begging for his life. Perhaps you are certain it was George Zimmerman desperately calling for help.
Either way, a special prosecutor's decision to charge Zimmerman with second-degree murder on Wednesday should bring us closer to the truth in a case that has been long on conjecture and woefully short on answers.
This feels right. It seems appropriate. No matter what a jury may eventually decide, the idea of an armed man stalking a 17-year-old who was talking to a girl on the phone while walking home from the store deserved closer scrutiny.
So, yes, there will be those who talk today of justice.
Even if what they seek is vengeance.
And there will be others who complain of a lynch mob mentality.
Even if their concerns are more partisan.
That is how this case has unfolded ever since the glare first shined upon the nondescript town of Sanford just miles from Florida's make-believe world of theme parks.
It began with a family's search for answers, and spiraled into a political cause. There were protests and accusations. There were assumptions and leaks.
It went from a neighborhood patrol captain on a residential street to pointed questions in the mayor's office. It eventually traveled to the governor's mansion and soon reached the attention of the president of the United States.
Along the way, the apparent loopholes of a controversial law were picked apart. The credibility of a police department was questioned. The reality of racial profiling was raised and debated in both public and private ways.
And perhaps it is true that, years from now, we may look back on this moment and decide that something worthwhile emerged from the anger and the angst.
But for now it still feels like a senseless, and unnecessary, tragedy. And the scheming and preening of secondary characters makes it seem even worse.
Hopefully, the decision to charge Zimmerman will help with that. Even if you believe in his innocence, the promise of evidence, witnesses and clarification should be a welcome respite from the finger-pointing and speculation.
And maybe the story's true loss will finally be felt.
For no matter what happened in that two-minute confrontation on a rainy Sunday evening, we can only be certain that one young man's dreams were cut short, and another's may have been forever ruined.
This was the only life Trayvon Martin had, and it will always mean more to his loved ones than whatever gains are realized in the re-examination of laws and stereotypes.
It's easy to say that we are a little bit closer to justice this morning.
But for a 17-year-old in a casket, there is no such thing.
John Romano can be reached at [email protected]