Ciera Parks rises early every morning and checks the headlines before starting her day.
On Aug. 28, the stay-at-home mom spotted a report of a 55-year-old man fatally shot at a SEPTA bus stop in Hunting Park, and a feeling of dread washed over her. Then she got a message from one of her dad's neighbors asking her to call immediately, and her suspicions were confirmed — it had been her father, Barry.
"He didn't bother anybody. He was a humble guy. He was content with his life and content with himself. He felt like he could take that walk every single night and go to work. He wasn't afraid," Ciera told me on Friday.
As he waited for the Route 56 bus shortly after 2:30 a.m. at Sixth Street and Erie Avenue, a gunman approached. There was a struggle and a gunshot. A coworker who was riding on the bus rushed to Barry Parks' aid, but there was nothing that could be done. Parks had been mortally wounded by a gunshot to the head.
It's so horrible. Two of his co-workers who were on the bus that Parks had been waiting to board have been too shaken by what they witnessed to return to their regular work schedules. His family is devastated.
All of this was for what? A backpack? According to his family, there was nothing much in it aside from his lunch, a token, a quarter, and a banana. Even if Parks had been carrying cash, it wouldn't have been much. He didn't have it like that. He was a man of modest means. A GoFundMe has been established in his name to help his family and find his killer.
Homicide Capt. John Ryan said in a text that what happened was "clearly a robbery" and "terrible," and that police are "still working on it."
There are a lot of sad stories in this harsh city of ours, too many to even try to keep up with. But something about the randomness of this one struck me especially hard.
That could have been anyone's father innocently waiting at a bus stop only to be set upon by a killer lacking even a shred of respect for human life. Before my own father died of natural causes, I used to worry about something like that happening to him. He also was an early riser and thought nothing of going outside before the sun was up.
By all accounts, Barry Parks was a good man. He worked hard, lived simply, and loved deeply. He worked as a sorter, separating recycled items at a Waste Management facility in the Northeast. He had three daughters, and the oldest, LaToya Scott, who's working on her master's degree in public health, gave him a Bible for Christmas.
"I can remember how happy and proud he was that I got him one. I made sure it was a nice one. Every time I talked to him, he would tell me all the time, 'LaToya, I loved that Bible you gave me. It's so easy to follow. I'm memorizing scriptures like I never have before.' He said the font was perfect for him," she recalled.
Parks' 80-year-old mother, Nettie, takes consolation in the fact that her son had been working on himself spiritually before he died and used to share with him her copies of Daily Word, a magazine with inspirational messages.
"That makes my heart feel better," she said.