I stood on the corner of Second and Cambria this week with the family of a woman who’d been shot and killed nearby.
They came to memorialize Cristina Tosado’s life — as a daughter, a mother, a woman full of life before she was gunned down outside a bar a year before, on Feb, 19, 2017. Two bullets, fired from a car, had hit her. She died a few hours later, leaving behind three children who had already lost their father to an illness.
As the rain grew heavier, I watched Tosado’s mother, Silvia Barreto, set bouquets of flowers on the concrete.
I watched family and friends try to keep the flickering candles going.
I watched her oldest daughter, Ashley Tosado, cry into balled-up fists.
It was hard to look away. Her tears, and anger, were familiar.
We’ve spent more than a week transfixed on the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, young Floridians who were devastated by a shooter who walked into their school on Valentine’s Day with an AR-15 and killed 17 of their classmates and teachers.
We watched their tears turn to anger and then uncensored and uncompromised determination to do what adults around them won’t. For proof of that, all you had to do was watch Sen. Marco Rubio tap dance when one of the survivors asked him at a CNN town hall to prioritize bloodshed over blood money and reject NRA donations. Or you could have watched President Trump and the NRA double down on the insanity by suggesting teachers who can’t get enough toilet paper for their students can now suddenly get guns.
It is the students’ righteous fury that continues to rise above, to promise a new conversation on guns.
I thought about that as I watched Ashley, whose tears mixed with anger at how guns have ruined her life. She’s just 22, and now she is responsible for her two siblings. I watched a grandmother who worries she will never get justice she’s waited years for. Twenty years before her daughter was killed, her 17-year-old son was shot and killed during a robbery. He had $5 in his pocket.
I wondered if the youthful fury from the Parkland students that has moved and inspired so many of us will trickle down to cities and the “everyday” shootings that never get enough attention.
The crowd on the Philly corner was small, but I noticed that there were almost as many young people as adults. I wondered if they could help spark a long-overdue reckoning on gun violence in Philadelphia.
At the memorial, I turned to two grieving women and shared an idea: What if kids in Philly took to the streets and called BS on the no-snitching culture, a big reason why more than half of the city’s murders go unsolved?
What if our kids said, as loudly and equivocally as the Florida teens, “Never Again!” And what if this time, we listened?
A few days after the sidewalk gathering, I reached out to Ashley to ask about some of the things that were going through my mind while standing on the corner with her — how a mass uprising of young people in this city, right now, could maybe turn the tide.
She was polite and thoughtful and not nearly as hopeful as a reporter with the luxury of entertaining ideas. She was living in the very real aftermath of gun violence.
I get it. I’m just not ready to let this idea, or hope, go.
Current conversations about gun violence have me thinking a lot about this day in 2015. https://t.co/qJ2aTr6XVe
— Helen Ubiñas (@NotesFromHeL) February 23, 2018
Of all the marches and memorials and meetings about gun violence I’ve attended, one has always stayed with me. It was a neighborhood peace walk led by students in 2015, after Julia de Burgos Elementary School on West Lehigh had five lockdowns in eight weeks.
As the students marched around their Fairhill school, onlookers couldn’t help but pay attention.
These were kids, not unlike those in Florida who have captured a nation’s attention, telling the adults that they wanted the gun violence to stop, that they wanted to live.
People listened, for a little while anyway.
The nation is listening right now, and what happens here has to be part of the conversation.