During the August festivals in El Salvador, the already high murder rate surged even more. A total of 88 persons lost their lives to violence between August 1 and August 6, an average of almost 15 per day.
A regular reader of this blog, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent in this essay about one of those 88 murders:
There can be no details in the story. It is too dangerous for the families left behind. But in the wee hours of the morning, a knock at a door in a small community ended with another young man laying dead in the pathway outside his home, leaving a girlfriend without her soul mate, a daughter without her father, a mother and father without their son, an extended family without their wage earner, a community without a leader, a church without a role model.
This story is not unique.
But this story is different for me because this man was like my son.
We met when he was a teen. He was being cool, flaunting a bit of English that he was learning in school. He became my unofficial guide to the community and we had fun trying to communicate. He squeezed in with the rest of his family in a small bed so I could have a spot to sleep. His first taste of peanut butter and jelly was with me. He drew me pictures that I keep in a scrap book. His mom is a dear friend.
One night, during our first visit together, he read something to me, so proud to read a bit of English:I could stay awake just to hear you breathing
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you're far way in dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure
Don't wanna close my eyes
Don't wanna fall asleep
Cuz I'd miss u baby
And I don't wanna miss a thing
Cuz even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream would never do
I'd still miss you baby
And I don't wanna miss a thing
As the teen grew into a young man, I worried. He lives in a place where one Salvadoran gang or the other do not give boys a chance to grow into men. He made a few style changes--fingernails, hair, clothing--that somehow gave him the appearance of being someone who he really was not and provided him a measure of safety.
He finished high school, worked steadily in a few different jobs. During one of my visits he wasn’t around much and his mom was worried. He was working as the fare taker in a micro bus on a route known for being dangerous to bus drivers. We thanked God when he got a job in a shoe store.
All grown up, my Salvadoran son moved in with his childhood sweetheart and after a while they had a baby. He was a tender and loving dad. His daughter looks just like him.
And now he is gone.
It’s complicated. He wasn’t supposed to be killed. It was a mistake. He did everything right; he was a good boy and a good man, and because of where he lived and the violence in his neighborhood--violence fed by poverty, injustice, and lies in the darkness--he is dead. Another innocent victim.
It’s complicated. Will there be justice for this young man? Will his death bring more violence or will something be ignited in the hearts of the people in his community to rise up and be a force for change, a force for peace?
I don’t know. But, I’m sad and I’m angry.
I’m missing you, baby.