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Sunday, September 19, 2021

When the young die

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Last weekend, Kenneka Jenkins did what many teenagers do — she lied to her parents and headed out to kick it with friends. If she was anything like the teens I knew growing up, there was some thought given to what to wear, who would be in attendance and what guy we might meet. The possibility of danger was something that rarely, if ever, crossed our minds. Life was about fun, and lots of it. Death, at that age, is a far-off concept.

In that Chicago hotel room on the night of Friday, Sept. 8, something went terribly wrong. The video recorded by one of the young women there that evening has been viewed millions of times, its content analyzed and audio ripped apart bite by bite. Despite what many social media investigators and pontificators have to say, the facts by and large remain unknown. What is known, however, is that a 19-year-old woman walked into the Crowne Plaza hotel, went missing under strange circumstances and was later found dead in a hotel freezer. Her family called on all the help they could to locate her — enlisting police and hotel employees, even knocking door to door in the hotel — prior to learning her devastating fate.

A bit closer to home, 13-year-old Belzer Middle School student Matthew McGee was killed outside a Castleton Square restaurant just after 10 p.m. last Saturday night. I wonder if his evening started out similar to Jenkins’ — full of adolescent energy and excitement. I can imagine that it did.

Scripture tells us that no one knows when their days will end. I get that, but I can’t help but question why things went the way they did in the cases of Jenkins and McGee. When the young die, there are so many questions. We ask why, and why again, and look for ways to make sense of the nonsensical. Someone, somewhere knows what happened to them, and I pray that their heart is pricked enough to speak up and speak out so justice can be served.

There is nothing these two young souls could have done to deserve what happened to them, and while none of us possesses the ability to turn back the hands of time and change what’s taken place, we do have the power to affect what is right in front of us.

I do not mean to sound self-righteous, but it is clear time and time again, hashtag after hashtag and vigil after vigil that we have to continue doing all we can to save our babies, our future, our next generation.

A few ways to start include volunteering with a local organization geared toward youth empowerment, building stronger bonds with your children or the young people in your life and saying something when you see something out of order.

The more methodical thinkers among us may note that it is impossible to “save them all.” While that may be true, we cannot ever stop trying.

May God bless and keep the families of the lost and give them comfort in their time of grief. 

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