With staccato-like regularity, guns are killing children. Epidemic. Public health crisis. Tragedy. By whatever name, these deaths bring profound loss to families and communities. This series attempts to capture the look, the sound, and the feel of this loss.
Yesterday, the day of Gussie Favors' funeral, bright yellow school buses sat outside Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia.
Inside, hundreds of students watched a video projected on walls on either side of the altar, and wept.
It was the last movie ever made of their beloved Northeast High classmate - a recording of the boys' basketball game on the Saturday night before he was shot - and it wasn't the best quality.
The cameraman was Gussie's dad, Augustus Favors. Gussie's sisters, Shonda and Lateefah, explained that their father got so excited during Jardel Jaguars games that he often got a lot of footage of the rec center floor.
Still, since Feb. 20, the day Gussie was shot at a friend's house, the video camera has been passed from mourner to mourner like a set of snapshots. Charged with homicide, the friend, Sadir Reddy, 16, says it was an accident.
Gussie loved, loved, loved to play basketball. That he could play competitively, after being so tiny as a kid, must have amazed him. "He would say, 'I ain't never going to grow tall,' " his father remembers, "and all of a sudden he was 10 years old and he just shot up. ... That was his big problem; it was the only thing he had to worry about."
Until, after 18 years, his parents separated last year, and Gussie took on another burden. "He was trying to get us back together," says Augustus Favors. "His heart was in the right place all the time; he cared about me, his mom, his sisters. ... He sat me and his mom down and talked to both of us. He was the peacemaker."
Favors had been visiting his children "every chance I got" - at least three times a week. The IRS tax examiner would ask his boss for a long dinner break from his evening shift to make Gussie's games. Still, he is haunted.
"I don't know if me being here could have prevented what happened, but I should have been here," he says, near tears. "I should have been here."
Now, Favors and his wife may reconcile. "We don't know if we're back together," he says softly, "but we're working on it. ... I think this is what my son would have wanted."
Other articles in the series.