The vigil for Reek Adams - shot in the head and killed on a Frankford street corner on Friday evening - begins less than 24 hours later.
The teenagers who loved Reek have set up a plywood altar littered with teddy bears and dotted with scrawled messages of affection for the high school junior who loved to rap and flirt with girls. After Reek's mom, Diane Adams, emerges from a taxi sobbing, the mourners trudge tearfully up Griscom Street to the corner of Church, where he was mortally wounded.
His mother bends over to pat the bloodstained pavement and cry out the name of her only child. As darkness falls, a black car with tinted windows takes the corner where she is standing too quickly, tires screeching. Bad driver? Or a deliberate attempt to frighten the mourners?
In this land of drive-by shootings, it is more than enough.
We are off, ducking for cover and running for our lives all the way back down Griscom.
The mothers are screaming at the children they can see, and grabbing the ones they can reach. Teenage girls sob as they sprint down the street. The boys are slower, more dignified in their retreat, but still move with fear in their eyes. A police car finally cruises by, too late for comfort. The black car is gone.
Nobody gets shot - tonight, anyway.
Two years ago, Diane Adams left this neighborhood to move to Lansdowne in Delaware County, but her son, a junior at Glen Mills School, missed the friends he grew up with and visited often. Residents say in that time, their neighborhood has become rife with shoot-outs. They explain that a threadbare teddy bear on the corner across from Reek's altar is left over from a similar shrine for a 19-year-old killed a year ago, and that a buddy on the step across the street took a stray bullet two weeks back, and they ask each other whether there have been four murders here this year, or was it even more? There's Haydee Laracuente, who smiles ironically when she tells you that she came here from the Badlands section of North Philly nine years ago to escape violence like this. And Shunda Richardson, who is hugging a close friend of Reek's and whispering words of peace in his ear.
"I tell them," she explains, "that the streets are going to eat you up. They got to get off these corners. They got to grow old together."