I have friends who are writing a study about gun violence, but more importantly I had a friend who was killed by a stray bullet. Bayette and I did not have the best of friendships, though the loss of his life has affected me more than the loss of anyone else that I have known.
For four years we went to the same elementary school just outside of Detroit. Bayette was constantly trying to be a part of the in-crowd. I, on the other hand, didn’t care about popularity. So, in his attempts to look better in others’ eyes, Bayette would often tease me. It continued on until one day he got mad at me and threw a punch to my gut. My return hit was even harder. That day we were sent home from school.
Now, you may be wondering why I say we were friends. The teasing only happened at school. Outside of school we would spend time together. Our families were friends, whereas they knew each other through the church. Soon after I signed up for karate lessons, Bayette joined me. Our parents would take turns driving us to and from the lessons.
I also got to see another side of Bayette. He really was a smart guy. Our school district had a special program for gifted kids. Both of us were in it. In those classes, Bayette learned that intellectual and creative gifts were more valuable than popularity. I saw how this program really challenged how he interacted with school.
Unfortunately I moved away right after sixth grade. I never saw him again following our last summer day together enjoying ice cream sundaes. About ten years later, I learned of his death two years previous. He was inside a house when a bullet came through the walls and killed him.
Bayette was looking forward to a bright future. He had become the intelligent young man that so many teachers, friends and relatives had held out hope for. However, his life was ended. I would not again see this old friend who once tormented me, but had since transformed. It pains me that we cannot spend one more day together to remember our childhood and laugh at how crazy it all was. I wish I could have known that young man he had become and that his family and fellow church members speak highly about.
Please, I ask, let’s end gun violence. Let us make it harder for weapons designed to kill humans to get on the street outside of our well-regulated militia. I don’t want more people to feel the pain of losing a friend that I still feel to this day.