Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

How will we answer for a wasted life?

Suddenly the rest of the news seemed unreal, unimportant — the struggling economy, the doings in the Legislature, the standard assortment of political absurdities — next to headlines about a little girl killed for no reason at all.

Oh, wait — there is a reason. There's a reason a St. Petersburg second-grader named Paris Whitehead-Hamilton was gunned down by bullets fired at her home in the early hours of a Sunday morning — something to do with retribution and retaliation and a fistfight between men, something related to an age-old neighborhood-against-neighborhood beef.

All of which will seem even more senseless and stupid when time passes and she is still gone, when a handful of young men will have officially thrown their lives away for what turns out to be no real reason at all.

There is plenty to haunt you in the news stories about an 8-year-old with a love of books and bikes and princesses, and who, not to put too sad a point on it, won't get the chance to grow up into anything more.

There is the image of her waking up to noise outside the house where she lived in the Bartlett Park neighborhood south of downtown St. Pete, where maybe sounds of trouble were not unfamiliar despite a dip in crime there, and then the girl caught in a hail of bullets that weren't even intended for her.

Something else keeps repeating in my head about this long-standing war between neighborhoods, the young men from Bethel Heights and the young men from Harbordale.

"No one even remembers how the feud started," the Times reported this week.

Now how empty, how pointless, how wrong is that — a kid's life spent for an anger no one can really even name?

In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of the senseless, state Rep. Darryl Rouson managed to say something that resonated, condemning the age-old, iron-clad code against "snitching," of cooperating with police and telling what you know when it's the right thing to do.

"To hell with this code of silence," Rouson said, encouraging anyone who knows of a teenager with a gun to step up and tell someone, and he's right, if anyone's listening. To those who have lived by this, enough. A little girl is dead for no reason. The police can't do it alone, can't fix all the struggles of a city without help from the people who live in it. Enough.

Police Chief Chuck Harmon spoke, too, of better-news statistics for Bartlett Park even in the face of the pointless and violent death of the most innocent of bystanders, a little kid who had gone to bed.

He also talked about the senselessness of assault rifles on our streets — guns, he said, that have the sole purpose of killing people. Period.

Now is a good time for some of us to argue gun control, given the semiautomatic AR-15 rifles police say heavily armed men used to open fire at the house that night, the kind of guns some enthusiasts fear our new president will take away.

Others will no doubt use what happened here to push for even more heavy-handed measures in court, like 10-20-Life, and mandatory minimum sentences that take power and discretion away from the judges and prosecutors we elect for that very purpose.

Since there can be no good answer to why this happened, the question is only this: What will really change after a little girl died for nothing?

How will we answer for a wasted life? 04/07/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 9:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday

    Blogs

    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102