February 14, 2024 Shots Fired

Published by Victor Barr on

Janice stood in the middle of the crowd, joy and euphoria bounced all around. It was a feeling shared by everyone. On the stage stood her gridiron heroes.

When the season ended she didn’t think The Chiefs would repeat as champions. Kansas City finished the season as the third seed and would have to play in Baltimore to make the conference finals. After proving their dominance, the Superbowl was a nail-biter to the end and when her team finally raised the Lombardi Trophy after a heart-stopping overtime victory she felt a relief and joy like none before.

Janice and her friend Helen huddled side by side in a crowd of people sharing in the celebration. They figured a million people came to watch the parade. The feeling was unbelievable, how could it get any better?

Out of nowhere came popping sounds. Was it fireworks? Who could be launching fireworks in the middle of such a large crowd of people? 

“Run, someone’s shooting!” The voice came to her from somewhere in the crowd.

Panic set in and the euphoria surrounding her changed in an instant.

Changed to fear.

Janice grabbed Helen’s hand to run. But which way to run? In the crush, she lost her grasp. “Helen!?”

She was being pulled and pushed from all sides. The joy that had engulfed the crowd only moments before was replaced with terror. Everything was a blur, Janice was swept along in the chaos. More gunfire erupted and she heard a woman scream. More cries of pain and fear erupted and the crowd kept pulling her along. Where was her friend? Why was anyone shooting a gun? 

This was supposed to be a joyful culmination and celebration. Now it was a chaotic mass of fear. She felt her feet stumble on a curb at the edge of the sidewalk. She tried to keep her legs under her, but people kept pushing. Her left leg twisted and she tried to keep her balance.

She fell.

Her stomach pulsed in a deep hole of pain. Her left leg felt like it was being crushed. If she didn’t get up soon, the rest of her would be crushed as well. Janice called out, “Help, stop…” She felt fear take over.

Just then a hand grabbed hers and pulled. Relief washed over her as someone yanked her to her feet. But she couldn’t stand. A black face stared into her eyes, “Are you okay miss? I felt your leg under my foot. Sorry, I didn’t mean to…” The black youth must have been only fifteen or sixteen years old and towered over her.

Gratitude washed through Janice. He’d probably save her life. “Thank you.” 

Like a wave, the crowd swept away and they were left standing on the edge of the sidewalk. 

Sirens and screams echoed around. Janice scanned the surroundings trying to see her friend. Where was Helen? She tried to put weight on her left leg and it almost collapsed. The youth grabbed her arm and helped steady her. 

“Are you alright miss? Here hold my arm.” He reached out and held her up.

Janice stared at the receding crowd, the shots had ceased and a surreal calm dropped on the street. Where was Helen? 

“My friend, she was right beside me,” Janice took a deep breath, “Oh god, why did this happen? We were having so much fun… and now this?” She glanced up at the young man, “Thank you. I will be okay. You should go find your friends.”

“It’s okay mam. My brother went with the crowd, I think he’ll be fine.” He stared at the retreating crowd. “About the shooting… I’m not surprised, guns are everywhere in this town.” 

“What do you mean? Guns are everywhere?”

“Oh ya, my older brother has one, he bought it legally. Kinda crazy, he can’t vote or drink, but he can own a gun.” The youth laughed and shook his head. “Of course, there are many more guns in my school, some legal, some not. It’s almost a right of passage – firing a gun. It’s part of the culture in the inner city.”

“Really? You’re kidding, I thought there were some laws about that?”

He laughed, “Laws? Ya, they tried to bring a law restricting guns from youths under eighteen. But of course, the gun lobby crushed that one. It’s a big joke. More people my age die by guns than for any other reason. I guess some idiot figured a parade was a good place to show off their guns… Probably some gang banger or some crazy asshole.”

Janice stared at the youth. Is this the future of her country? He seemed like a good kid. She couldn’t imagine being raised in a school where guns were a normal thing. 

“Janice!” Helen’s voice pierced her thoughts.

Janice stared around and saw her friend running toward her. “Helen, oh thank god.” 

Helen ran up and grabbed her arm away from the young man. Janice stared at him, a look of regret tinged his features. He let go and bolted off into the crowd.

“Wait, I didn’t get your name.” She called to his retreating back. He raised his hand and put two figures into a V as he dashed across the road toward a crowd of people surrounding a youth on the ground. 

Helen stared at Janice, “Did he hurt you? Are you okay?” 

“No, he didn’t, he…” Janice took a breath and tried to take a step. “He saved me. I think I need a doctor though, my leg is in agony. Can you help me? I don’t think I can walk on my own.”

“Let’s get you to that bench. I hear ambulances coming.” A tear trickled down Helens’ face, “Why did this happen? Who would have done such a thing?”

“I wish I knew, Helen, I wish I knew.” Janice sat and stared at the road. She thought about what that boy said. Guns were part of the culture. How could anyone change that? She leaned on her friend’s shoulder and together they sat and cried.



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