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How many victims will it take to prove we value human life?

CleopatrCowley-Pendletweeps arms her family friends after news conference Wednesday Vivian GordHarsh Park Chicago where her daughter Hadiywas killed Tuesday afternoon.

Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton weeps in the arms of her family and friends after a news conference Wednesday at Vivian Gordon Harsh Park in Chicago, where her daughter, Hadiya, was killed Tuesday afternoon. | Jessica A. Koscielniak~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 15, 2013 1:20PM

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was fatally shot Jan. 29 while standing underneath a canopy at a South Side park. This is another in an occasional, yearlong series that looks behind the number of murders in Chicago.

If it were Sasha and Malia, instead of Heaven and Hadiya, would this nation then mourn?

Will we remember through the years, after all shed tears, candlelight vigils, marches and time, our little girls who lived and prematurely died?

In time, will we even remember their names?

Or will we ensure that they died not in vain?

If little rich girls from suburban plains were being slain instead of little poor girls in city neighborhoods where bullets rain, would we then proclaim a state of emergency?

If even an emerald city park, beneath a green shade tree, were not a safe-haven from the gunplay that ebbs and flows like the summer breeze, then would we make it stop?

Perhaps if urban terrorists sprang murderous plots and bullets whizzed up and down tree-lined blocks?

If our daughters were gunned down, even while at play, even while seeking shelter on a rainy day, what would we then say?

And if some coward shot our daughters in the back, gave no thought to that merciless attack — that an innocent might get caught in the crossfire — would we then, at last, fight back?

Would we resolve to leave no stone unturned, until we had brought all of our daughters’ killers to justice and the whole world had learned that we value human life — whether squeaky clean or middle class, shining light or maybe not as bright?

For the protection of all our children, will we fight and die, hunt down homicidal thugs who make mothers cry?

Would we resolve that not one more of our children need die, gasping for breath beneath a blue sky, on cold wet streets while we adults drag our feet; and our daughters are buried six-feet deep, wearing prom gowns or nestled with teddy bears, sealed in caskets in eternal sleep?

And how many deaths of our daughters are enough to provoke this city, where bullets claim the innocent and young without pity?

Shall ten? Fifteen? Twenty? How many?


One daughter. One city, where there have been so many daughters slain that it sometimes seems this whole wide world has gone insane.

And so we cry. Here, in this city, where our wayward sons cause our daughters to die.

Heaven Sutton, 7. Tanaja Stokes, 8. Shot while selling candy and jumping rope. In the light of day, it was young reckless gunmen who sealed their fate.

Tyesa. Rashonda. Nova and Ava.

Charinez. Porsche. Starkesia. Desiree.

Too many to name. The carnage too great. And yet, killers still lie in wait. Even as public memory of our daughters slain too soon fades.

But if it were Sasha and Malia, instead of Heaven and Hadiya, would this nation then mourn? Would we remember through the years, after all shed tears, candlelight vigils, marches and time, our little girls who lived, and prematurely died?

Will we remember that for Hadiya, there came no Sweet 16? That Heaven Sutton will never turn 13.

That for these daughters there will be no prom. No more honors or accolades to come.

No high school graduation. No more Christmas Eves filled with anticipation.

No college. No wedding bells.

No first dance with daddy. No golden-aged stories for them to tell.

Will we even remember these daughters’ names?

Can we at least ensure that they died not in vain?

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