Two Shots: A Murderer in My Neighborhood

On Sunday morning at 10:07 am, a 73 year old man, Douglass Watts, was just returning home from walking his dog.  He was shot in the head and the assailant ran away through a nearby alley.

On Monday night around 10:20 pm, a 24 year old man, Eliyahu Moscowicz, was walking on a path at a local park.  He, too, was shot in the head at close range.  Ellie, as he was known to his friends, worked at one of the grocery stores where I shop.  He was tall and had kind eyes.

On Tuesday morning, the Chicago Police Department revealed that the same gun was used to kill both men, per ballistics reports.

On Wednesday evening, at a community meeting to address the shootings, CPD First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio stated, “We believe the individual lives in this community.  He’s somebody’s neighbor.  Somebody in this room probably knows this guy,” as reported by Jonathan Ballew in his Block Club Chicago article.

CPD Released photo of the suspect in the Rogers Park shootings.

I live two miles away from these murders, which occurred just blocks away from one another.  Some friends live a few doors down from where Mr. Watts was killed.  My husband and I know many folks in the neighborhood.

Those of us who live here have been cautioned to keep going about our daily routine, to not feel homebound, to get outside (but not  alone), to find someone to walk with, to be vigilant, to carry a whistle.

Oy, I think to myself, a whistle is not going to help in this situation.  And, right now, typing these words, I pause, wondering if the murderer might somehow see this post and target me, my kids, my home, my husband.

The random nature of these killings has me on edge.  A man is out walking his dog on a bright Sunday morning.  He is executed steps from his home.  Another man is taking an evening walk after one of the Jewish holidays.  I think about his family and how every year moving forward they will feel the weight of their loss as the high holidays near, as the days grow a bit shorter, as the air begins to cool, as the seasons turn.

I scroll through my Facebook feed and see the fear I feel mirrored in my friends’ posts.  “There seems to be a serial killer operating in my neighborhood,” wrote one.  Another shares a gofundme to raise money to bury the first victim, “We didn’t know this man, but he was our neighbor, and we are all reeling from this random act of violence in our neighborhood.”

The neighborhood boards on Facebook are full of people trying to process their fear, their worry, their concern, their terror.  Dog owners are looking for fellow dog owners to partner with for their morning and evening walks.  A black man offers to walk dogs with anyone who needs a partner, offers concern that there are stories the suspect is black and killing white victims, ends his post with #I’llwalkwithyou, pairing it with a photo of him holding his tiny dog.

Others worry that with a greater police presence and so many people and neighbors living in fear, people of color are at greater risk for others calling the police on them simply for living, working, walking in their own neighborhood.  The Alderman is sending out regular alerts, with information and updates.

There is a frantic spectrum of “This is nothing new and has always been the case in Rogers Park,” to “I love my neighborhood and my community.  Does anyone want to start a block club, or meet up for drinks tonight so we can get to know one another?”

Whew.  It’s a lot to take in.

The detail I keep coming back to, that I keep thinking about, is that the killer knows the neighborhood.  He knew where to run after he pulled the trigger that first time.  He felt comfortable enough on a Sunday morning to run through the streets and alleys after killing his first victim.  He felt emboldened enough to do it again the next day.

Last night the police released video of the suspect.  He has a distinct gait, his toes pointed out, like a duck.  Somewhere, close by, there is a man who walks like a duck and carries a gun and, when the spirit moves him, will shoot you in the head at close range.

As if 2018 wasn’t hard enough already.

To the Two Boys Sitting Behind President Trump Last Night at the Rally in Mississippi

I see you, in your sport coats and ties.  You look so handsome.  Your parents must be proud of you.  I am a mom to two boys just like you.  My older one loves to wear a coat and tie, too.   Just this morning I sent him off to school in his finest clothing for picture day.  I wanted him to wear his navy sport coat and polka dot tie, but he chose gray.  Boys don’t always listen to their mamas, do they?

But that’s neither here nor there.  Full disclosure, I am worried for you.  You got a front row seat last night to the Divided States of America under President Trump.  I don’t care what your politics are, red or blue, Republican or Democrat, it is not a good place to be.

I am sorry for that.

We adults don’t always get things right.  We make mistakes.  Often.  These days too many of us are making too many of them and the stakes are getting higher and higher.

What you witnessed last night was one of them.  Regardless of you or your folks being Trump supporters, you should not see the President of the United States of America mocking and making fun of a woman who has claimed to be the victim of a sexual assault.  She is not evil.  Democrats are not evil.  They are your fellow Americans.  They are your teachers and your doctors and your police officers and your soldiers that protect you.

I’ve been interested in politics since I was younger than you are now.  One of my very first memories was watching former President Nixon resign his office.  I remember my folks being glued to the TV for a few days.  In the 4th grade, I got to go to our local high school and see President Carter give a speech.  I remember feeling full of awe when the Secret Service went through my backpack.  Did they do the same to you last night?

President Carter did things a wee bit differently than President Trump.  He held a town hall type of meeting where average Americans, my neighbors, were allowed to ask questions.  I remember the husband of my 3rd grade teacher, Mr. Kast, was sitting near us and he asked a question about traffic lights.  No joke.  Traffic lights being too long was the problem he wanted to address when the President came to town.  It seems like a different world.

I miss those days.

What you saw last night was not normal.  It is not normal for the President of the United States to refer to roughly half of voting Americans as evil.  I know being a kid, you’ve only lived under two presidents, so you’re batting .500 here with presidents that do this, but please, trust me when I say this level of anger and hate and vitriol (look up that word on the Google — it’s a good one and will impress your teachers) is not normal.  It’s not healthy for our democracy either.

Some folks might think that you’re too young to be political or have political opinions that mirror or oppose those of your parents.  I disagree.  From my own childhood, I know better.  It is very possible for kids to think about these things.  I encourage it.  Be more political!  Read!  Ask questions!  Look for folks to talk with that both agree and disagree with you.  Question everything you read and are told.  You’re never too young to form your own opinions.  Look at those kids from Parkland.  They are changing the world.

But listen closely and hear this:  People who disagree with your political opinions are not inherently (another word to check on Google) evil or your enemy.  Women who have come forward with allegations of a sexual assault are not people you should mock or belittle.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Disagree with them.  Use healthy skepticism, sure, always, but never demean or belittle.

There are lines that President Trump not only crosses, but destroys.  Some things are sacred, or should be.  Basic common decency is one of them.  He appears to lack that or think it makes him stronger or more powerful to abuse human decency.  It does not.  Know this.  All those adults cheering him on last night?  That was also not okay.  Or decent.  Or kind.  Or compassionate.

It’s a tough thing to ask a child to be better, do better than the adults who surround them, but here I am, asking and encouraging you to be better and do better than the adults around you.

I am sorry to put you in this position.  It isn’t really fair.  But that is where we are at in the Divided States of America in 2018.  It shouldn’t be this way, but it is.  For your sake, and the sake of my sons and all the kids of America, I hope we get it together quickly.  I worry for us.  All of us.

Adults are supposed to protect children, the younger generation.  We are not doing that right now.  Probably there are a lot of folks out there who think me speaking to you so frankly is a bad thing.  They want to protect you, no doubt.  I will take that risk because looking at you, I didn’t just see two handsome boys in their coat and ties.  I saw your discomfort, your dis-ease.  Those are the things that give me hope these days.

Trust that discomfort.  Trust your gut when it tells you something is not right.  Last night was not right.  Mocking women is not right.  Suggesting that half your fellow Americans are evil for voting a different way is not right.

Trust in that, not in what you saw last night.


The Baby Upstairs

The young couple who live above us had a baby this summer.  I often hear the distinct cry of a newborn these days, filtered through the ceiling and floorboards above me.  It is a boy and he is tiny, but already growing.  His parents are happy.

Most every day, when I hear the cries, when I see the stroller carrying its little bundle, when I see the weary parents, I think to myself, “Whew.  So glad that is over.”  I am happy for this new little family, for the love they share that has created this little life.  And, still, I think, whew, so glad that is over.

I hear him right now.  The little honey must just have woken from a nap.  And, hearing her cue, there are mom’s footsteps.  It is a beautiful thing, a sacred thing, the caring a parent provides a baby.  Infants are so vulnerable, so completely dependent, so needing a competent, loving older human to watch out for them, watch over them.

Me and my youngest baby, August 2014.

“Old MacDonald” with his farm and his vowels seems to be the go to song his parents rely on to soothe and calm him.  We hear it often enough that my five year old has started singing “E-I-E-I-O” when he hears the baby’s cries.  It’s cute and sweet, and often, full disclosure, a wee bit unsettling.

At 48, my infant days are over, but not that long gone.  My newly minted five year old son will still, like a baby, rely on tears to communicate his frustration, his needs.  It happens in a flash, those tears, and they are often gone as quickly as they started.  He uses his words most of the time, thank goodness.

I’ve been thinking about the anxiety I feel, the little internal bristling I sense when I hear that newborn cry.  Why?  Why now?  What about those cries unsettles me so?  I don’t know for certain, but I think a part of it is my body and my unconscious saying, “We’re done.  No more.  Moving forward.  Next!”

I came to it late, so it stands to reason that it would end later, too, but that stage in my life, the baby yearning years, those newborn years, the baby raising years, are over.  Done.  Fini.  Bye, bye.  Check you later, sleepless nights.

The passage of time is a gift that not all of us people are granted.  As my two boys get older and achieve new milestones, I celebrate each and every one.  I jump for joy on their first days of school.  When I pack up the too small clothes and shoes for another, younger kid to use, I fist pump the air as I drive them to the Goodwill.

I should do the same for myself as I do for my boys.  Celebrate those milestones, fist pump the air for the changes in my life, recognize the stages that were and live the stages that are and will be.  It is a beautiful thing to get older, move forward, embrace what is.

Thank you, baby upstairs, for the life lesson.  I wish many blessings on you and your parents.  E-I-E-I-O, sweet child.