True Life: I Witnessed My First Murder When I Was 5
I’m still surprised that I survived Landrum Drive.
I spent the first half of my childhood in Southwest Atlanta, otherwise known as The S.W.A.T.S.
It’s not the best part of town, but it was home for a long time. And I had no reason to feel unsafe… At first.
When I was a little girl, my mother hosted a sleepover for my older cousins and I. (Of course, my siblings were there, but they were babies.) I was excited because until that moment, the only time I got to see my cousins was when we went to their house, and they lived “far away.” So since they were coming to my house this time, I was ecstatic!
As soon as they got there, I showed them my dolls, gave them a tour of my closet, and I plugged up my radio. I was trying to tune the station to get V-103 to work, but the signal kept going out. Nonetheless, it didn’t stop our party. We could still hear the music and my cousins started dancing.
And that’s when I taught them how to twerk!
I was like, “let me show y’all something!”
I did a handstand against the wall and started shaking my booty. 😂 I learned it from my downstairs neighbor at her older sister’s birthday party. This was around the time “Back That [Thang] Up” came out, so everybody and their grandma was twerking.
“Can y’all do that?” I asked them when I got off the wall.
Without saying anything, one of them hopped on the wall.
“How’d you shake your butt?!” she asked me.
“Like this!” I put my hands on my knees. “But upside down!”
Next thing I know, my mother came in and her eyes bugged out.
“Rae taught us!” my oldest cousin pointed her finger at me.
I just started laughing.
In short, we were having the time of our lives.
Everything was going good.
Now, normally when we heard gunshots, they sounded far off. Like, you could hear them, but they weren’t LOUD. Not as loud as these were, at least. On instinct, I hit the floor. My suburban ass cousins were looking confused until my father told them to get down.
“It sounds like it’s outside,” I heard my mother say.
Now this is where things get fuzzy for me. I remember being scared, and we were told to stay in the room. My cousins were shaking. My mother was holding one of my baby siblings, and she and my father went to the front of the apartment.
I don’t know why, but something made me leave the room, and after that, the memory becomes clear again.
I can’t tell you what I was thinking in the interim. I don’t know if it was the terrorized look on my cousins’ faces, or if I wanted to be with my parents, but I got up and left the room. I remember being scared, and that’s it.
I walked to the front, and there he was.
Our front door was wide open. My mother was standing on the right, still holding one of my siblings. My father was standing on the left.
Right across the hall, our neighbor’s door was wide open, too. Their living room and dining room was lit all the way up. A woman was cradling a man’s bloody, lifeless body and crying at the top of her lungs with her head tilted back. She was holding him so that his back was against her torso.
“Go to the room!” my father yelled at me.
But I just stood there. I couldn’t move.
Despite the scene, it took my mind a while to register that our next door neighbor got shot.
Next door. Like, right across from us.
My father told me to go back to the room again, but it was too late. I already saw it. And that image will forever be imprinted on my brain.
That pretty much killed the party.
Unfortunately, my cousins left that night.
But I think I was more upset that I had to stay.
My cousins got to go back to their cushy life in the suburbs while I was left behind to deal with my daily reality. We heard gunshots all the time, but it was never this close.
And that let me know that every time a gunshot went off, no matter how far away, somebody actually died.
After that incident, gunshots became more than just a sound to me. It was a notifier; someone is no longer with us.
I couldn’t even listen to fireworks without being triggered. (Just ask anybody who ever saw my reaction at those Stone Mountain laser shows.)
And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t happen ALL THE TIME.
But the possibility of someone dying every other week is just sad. And I hate the hood for it.
Who the hell would be next?