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McGRATH: Recovery slow for Leo student shot in October

Miles Turner V senior football player Leo survived despite being shot five times near his South Side home October. |

Miles Turner V, a senior football player at Leo, survived despite being shot five times near his South Side home in October. | Courtesy of the Turner Family

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Updated: February 9, 2013 8:58PM

Miles Turner V survived being shot five times in a street altercation he was trying to prevent near his South Side home four months ago, so he isn’t listed among the 506 homicide victims in 2012 that decimated Chicago like a mutant strain of a deadly plague.

Miles’ 17-year-old cousin, the target of a cold-blooded urban terrorist with a gun and not much else in his life, wasn’t as fortunate. Modell McCambry died from two bullet wounds to the chest.

The word ‘‘senseless’’ pretty much has been retired as an adjective to describe these killings, its effect exhausted from attachment to all of them. But it was revived 12 days ago, when 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton became the 42nd homicide victim of the first month of 2013.

The death of the talented, ambitious King honor student put a sweet, innocent face on a horrible, ugly problem and refutes, finally, the notion the carnage is an easily ignored matter of soulless gangbangers preying upon each other.

Not when Hadiya’s funeral brought first lady Michelle Obama to town, offering White House support but no ready answers.

Miles, who is 18 and a senior at Leo, doesn’t think of himself as especially fortunate as he enters the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, hopeful of regaining movement in legs that remain immobilized by bone and bullet fragments lodged at the base of his spine. He already has spent nearly two months in the intensive-care unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and another six weeks at RML Specialty Hospital, a West Side facility that treated his wounds and prepped him for the intensive therapy regimen awaiting him at RIC. He has undergone five major operations and at least a dozen lesser procedures.

I work at Leo, and all of us feel we have a stake in Miles’ recovery. We know him as a college-bound football player, bright, friendly, funny and engaged, a respected school leader. Gangbanger? No chance.

Christine Meany, a committed math teacher at Leo, has organized a tutoring program so Miles can complete his course work and graduate with his classmates in June. Meanwhile, we remind him he has been given a second chance at life, and we believe it. But it’s not an easy sell to a wounded teenager who has no idea what this new life holds for him and no understanding of why his previous life was shattered so arbitrarily.

Angela and Miles Turner IV have kept a patient bedside vigil since that terrible October night when a frantic neighbor delivered news every Chicago parent dreads hearing: The gunplay that too often had disrupted the tranquility of their neighborhood had struck down their only son.

An ambulance sped Miles to Northwestern Memorial. He hasn’t been home since.

The Turners are a strong, stable couple, too committed to Miles’ recovery to allow for any self-pity. They are proud, working people, grateful their insurance will help cover the staggering cost of the care Miles requires. The emotional cost, though, is on them.

It’s on all the kids at Leo, really. Miles was hit as we still were grieving a child we lost to street violence three months earlier, an incoming freshman named Antonio Davis, who was shot and killed as he went out for a cold drink on a hot night near his aunt’s home in gang-infested Englewood. Mistaken identity, we were told. Wrong place at the wrong time.

That’s too pat an answer for Antonio’s mother, who lost her only son at 14.

We like to think of Leo as a safe haven, and it is — no cops, no metal detectors, no need for them. But we can’t protect our kids once they leave us and head back to the war zones they call home. The violence affects them, even if they don’t experience it directly.

‘‘I don’t even go out anymore because my neighborhood is too crazy,’’ I hear all the time from kids being robbed of their youth.

We celebrated Alumni Night at our basketball game Friday and welcomed more than 100 Leo grads back to our little third-floor gym for a Catholic League tussle against St. Laurence. The sons of many Leo men have turned up at St. Laurence in the years since changing neighborhood demographics created a change in the racial composition of Leo.

But the white-haired old-timers and braided-hair would-be hip-hoppers stood as one on this night to sing the Leo fight song — and to pray for Miles.

We prayed he will stand with us the next time we gather.

Sports editor’s note: Dan McGrath is the president of Leo High School.

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