On Saturday, a 19-year-old was shot on Dixwell Avenue. I didn’t know him. Now, at least I know his name — Tywan. I know he used to smile at kids in the hallway of the Wexler-Grant Community School, and that the girls I mentor there used to say hi to him. “He was a bright kid,” a teacher told me, slamming a stack of paper down by the copy machine. “He went right here to this school.”
He was killed across the street from the school, and that shook people — shook them more than headlines about an uptick in violence can convey.
When I arrived to work with the Dwight Hall Academic Mentoring Program on Monday afternoon, I didn’t know what had happened. A seventh-grader told me when we sat down to go over the poetry unit they are studying in English class. She talked for a while, in a soft voice, and I wrote. This is what she said:
There’s too much shootings.
There’s three shootings and two murders in one week.
Made me feel sad, like it’s ridiculous.
Like my heart still burning.
At school, everybody walk around with sad faces.
Had tears from their souls coming down their faces.
Asking why. Ask people if they OK.
They asked me if I was OK.
I said no, it wasn’t worth it.
It wasn’t worth getting your life taken away for.
They were like, it’s gonna be ok.
I said no it’s not, he not here any more,
he not coming back.
Now looking at my friend Jayvon face —
how long it was, how mad he was,
just bring tears to my eyes.
He had a blank face. Like
Did he just die? Is he really gone, like?
I know people get shot all the time but this is somebody
I knew, somebody that I went to school with.
It breaks my heart that somebody under the age of 20
is up in heaven now. He didn’t even
get a chance to have a wife and kids.
We not usually quiet in school.
We always loud and talking and playing around.
Nobody wasn’t laughing, just faces like blank.
He did die Saturday. His funeral’s didn’t even come.
He got shot right in front of my friend.
She alright. She was crying and stuff.
But yeah, that’s what happened.
That’s why it’s not good to hate people.
Always love each other.
Because that could’ve been your family asking why.
That could’ve been you on the ground.
“It don’t sound like a poem,” the student said, reading over the page. “It’s more like a story.” The story is both familiar and foreign to the Yale campus this year; that’s why we better pay attention to it.
I’m not writing to complain about town-gown relations, or to give thanks for the wrought-iron gates that keep New Haven out of my backyard. I’m just sorry we mourn our losses so separately.
“Why do all these college kids keep dying?” the Wexler-Grant students asked me after the murder of Annie Le GRD ’13 in September. One of them told me she was scared to go to college. I said college is great, and that bad things can happen anywhere, to anybody. And since then, they have.
One of my best friends, Scott Robinson ’11, passed away in January. I drove out to Buffalo for his funeral. I missed mentoring that day, and the Monday after, when I couldn’t put a cheerful face on things and go try to boss a bunch of 13-year-olds around. I spent that afternoon crying behind a pillar at the Hall of Graduate Studies.
I’ve never cried like that for an anonymous shooting victim in Dixwell.
But there aren’t any anonymous victims. There are people saying hi to each other in hallway or down the street.
One of them was named Tywan, and he died last Saturday.
Mari Michener Oye is a junior in Timothy Dwight College.