The day my world changed

How gun violence took my father from me


Che'mari Kent, Staff Reporter

Sunday, August 28, 2016, after waking myself up because it felt as if I overslept, I saw my grandmother in my room putting my dog in her cage. As I wiped my eyes and looked into my grandmother’s face, I never would have thought she was about to tell me the worst news ever.

I remember waking up with one of the biggest smiles on my face because I knew that I would be starting my junior year at a new school the following day.

I said, “Granny, what time is it?” knowing that I had a 10:30 nail appointment and the look on her face worried me.

She sat on my bed and gave me a hug and then said, “Your daddy died last night.” I immediately froze. Then she said, “someone killed him.”

I instantly started crying. I continuously screamed, “Nooo, this can’t be true. Why?!” I ran through the house screaming, “Where’s my phone? This can’t be happening! I just talked to my daddy last night. I NEED MY PHONE!”

My mom then hands me my phone and I quickly dialed my dad’s number. It went straight to the voicemail, so I texted him a thousand times and I never got a reply. I then began to cry again, making my mom tear up.

I walked out of my room as I was approached by my aunt, uncle and granddad. I broke down saying, “I told him to go in the house. He called me last night and said he was going in the house. Why didn’t he listen to me?”

My grandmother began rubbing my back while my aunt was comforting me in her arms. When I heard the news, my heart shattered into a million pieces.

As I unlocked my phone, I was instantly confronted with numerous phone calls, voicemails, text messages, and notifications from my social media accounts. I still couldn’t believe that my dad was no longer here.

My dad was my first love. Whenever I needed him, he was always there. The morning he was murdered was the same day he was taking my mom and I out to breakfast. As I tried to pull myself together, my phone rang and the name read, “Auntie Pat.” I didn’t answer because I already knew what she was about to say.

My grandma came in and said, “Do you want to go see your dad?”

I replied nervously with a simple “yes.”

As I started getting ready the tears started falling from my eyes once again. Now as I was crying, I started feeling weak. I ended up pulling myself together and headed to the car. The ride was silent.

As we pulled up to my aunt’s house, my heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. I got out of the car and as I saw everyone on my aunt’s porch, I knew that this was actually reality. As soon as I got out of the car my cousin came and hugged me, all I could do was cry.

I felt so empty not seeing my dad on the porch in his favorite chair. I walked in the house and saw my other grandmother crying. She hugged me and we cried together.

I was ready to go home after about five minutes of being there because everyone kept talking about my dad’s murder and their possible analysis of what they thought happened.

After we left I went straight home and tried to take a nap. Sitting in my room, my phone rang and it was one of my best friends. She said, “Come open the door, I’m outside.” I sat there confused because I told everyone that I didn’t want to be bothered, so get up to  let her in.

She came in with two teddy bears and a meal from Popeyes Chicken. I wasn’t in the mood to eat, but I forced myself to. She stayed for about twenty minutes and I walked her out and crawled back into my bed. As soon as I got comfortable, I heard the doorbell ring, yet again.

I walked in the living room and another one of my close friends arrived unannounced. She brought me a gift basket full of my favorites which were Kit-Kats, Cookies and Cream ice cream, perfume, and a hoodie from Victoria’s Secret as well as a candle for my mom. We sat and talked about all the memories we shared together with my dad.

After she left I decided to listen to all my daddy’s favorite songs and I soon fell asleep. I woke up and my other best friend was laying next to me. We got up and she helped me look through my pictures. We gathered all of the pictures we had with my dad in them and we went back in my room.

As I looked at the pictures I felt myself starting to cry, but no more tears were coming out. I ended up sleeping the rest of the day away. The next day was Monday, the day I was suppose to start school.

We went to my aunt’s house so we could start making arrangements. September 8, 2016, was the first time I saw my dad’s lifeless body in a casket. As I approached the casket, I stared at him for a long time, then I cried because as I touched his hand I just knew that was it.

I sat in the front row and just stared at him and the only thing that went through my mind was the idea that my daddy is gone forever. I felt so hurt and alone because I was my dad’s only child and he was all I knew my whole life. After the visitation, we headed to my aunt’s house to do a balloon release and a candle-light ceremony in his memory. It felt good to relive all of the memories we had with my dad and I enjoyed being surrounded by my family and close friends, but my mood changed because I knew that the next day would be the last time I’d see my dad’s face forever.

The morning of September 9, 2016, was a drag. I texted my dad and said the last words I wanted to tell him even though I knew he couldn’t reply.

We drove over to my aunt’s so that we could get into the funeral car. We arrived to the church and my stomach turned into a knot. I was feeling just fine as we sat in the family room, but as we began lining up to march in as a family, I felt weak. As soon as I heard the music, I felt my eyes water.

As I sat in the first row, my body calmed down. Hearing and seeing my family members break down, I felt numb to the situation. Once I took a glance at my dad, I just started screaming, “Daddy, wake up! Please just wake up, daddy! I need you!” I started crying and I felt someone pick me up.

Not knowing at the time who it was I screamed “Let me go, put me down,” but they held me in a cradle. As I was walked out of the church, in the arms of one of my male cousins, my mom, my grandma, and one of my favorite female cousins were with me. I began to pace up and down the doorway of the church and all I remember hearing my grandma say is, “Mari, I know this is hard but you have to calm down. I don’t want you to make yourself sick.”

I drank some water and walked back into the church. I saw two of my friends sitting next to my cousins and I smiled knowing that I had some of my friends there to support me during the rough time. Throughout the rest of the service I comforted my little cousins and my aunts who were still crying.

I pulled myself together, but when we went around for the last time to view the body, I broke down again. I remember trying to pick up my dad’s body as I said to him, “Daddy please, I love you!”

The car ride to the cemetery was silent because everyone ended up taking a nap. As my dad’s body was being lowered into the ground, I didn’t have any tears left in my body. I released eight doves to remember the life of my dad.

My dad was my bodyguard, my protector, my listening ear, my personal ATM, and my best friend. Everyday I wish I could look his killer in the face and tell him that taking my daddy’s life was a mistake. My daddy didn’t deserve to die the way he did. I lost a part of myself with his death and I miss my dad more and more each and every day. This person has permanently scarred me for life and robbed me of wanting to have a date for prom, get married or bear a child because my dad will not be able to go through these experiences alongside me.

Unfortunately, the justice system here in Chicago is so corrupt that it makes me more enraged than mournful knowing my dad was one of the 90 victims who died in the month of August in 2016.

That month was one of the deadliest months in Chicago in 20 years, and obviously the detectives and officers who were assigned to these cases won’t be able to help each family find justice. Any department dealing with 90 murders in one month would be “overwhelmed” and therefore, leaving the victim’s families to live on without any official closure.

Personally, I feel that the detectives didn’t go the extra mile to help find the person behind my dad’s murder. If they would’ve done their jobs and had more empathy and compassion for the families, the person who killed my father could have been arrested and sentenced to the time they deserved. My dad didn’t have a chance to sit in the hospital and fight for his life; his life was taken from him instantly with a bullet straight to the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crime with pictures of his dead body lying on the ground surfacing on the internet. I’ll never think that the several detectives assigned to my dad’s case did all they could do to solve it.

My dad will forever live through me and I’ll make sure I keep making him proud!