ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – “I cry every day, I cry every day… because I see her.”
Erika Jones sees Whitney — the daughter she lost — in the face of her grandson Jakeem.
A child who witnessed his mother cut down by a spray of bullets from a pick-up truck. “JaKeem has the memory of, ‘Nana, my mama fell against the car and she gonna wake up in the morning when the sun come up’.”
In August 2015, Erika was called to that scene in the Walnut Park West neighborhood, where her daughter had gone to visit a friend. She recalls a deep, sick feeling when she arrived. “I knew, I knew. I didn’t want to think my daughter was gone, but I felt it.”
Whitney had just moved into a new apartment, bought her own car, and was working on her nursing degree. A beautiful young woman, planning a future. Gone.
Erika is now left to raise her grandson, “a little boy wants his mother. I’m his nana, not his mother”
She says she has been blessed by an employer who has provided counseling for her entire family, but how does anyone come to grips with what happened? “What did our children do, what did they do for somebody to come down the street with a gun and decide to shoot?!? We have people out here taking people’s lives just on a whim!”
Whitney’s murder was one of nearly 190 in the city that year. It was the shooting of Cardinals fan a month later that became the lead story for weeks.
“Still to this day, he’ll say where did you park mom? why did I park there? why did this happen to me?” Candis Sanna says she still feels overwhelming guilt. Her family had been celebrating her birthday at a Cardinals game in downtown St. Louis. Her son Chris and his girlfriend Lisa had parked near the Old Cathedral. “When you’re at a Cardinals game, you just don’t think you’re in those bad areas,” explains Chris Sanna.
But that night a man got out of his car and chased Sanna down with a gun. “I heard a phwewt… like a whistle and that was the first bullet going by.” The second bullet tore through his body. As he lay helpless, the shooter held them both at gunpoint, going through Chris’s pockets and taking Lisa’s belongings.
It was weeks into his recovery, when he lay helpless in bed with his mom trying to help, that the horrifying reality of his future hit. “She couldn’t pick me up, and her and I just broke down crying, I kept asking her why.”
“Two years later it’s still this hard to talk about,” says Candis.
Paralyzed from the waist down, Chris sits in a power assisted wheelchair in his kitchen.
The shooting took his mobility, his financial security, his independence, and on some days his dignity. ‘It’s hell,” he says in a near whisper. “It’s hell on earth.”
While Candis still has her son, she explains they’ve lost their peace. “He’s afraid to go out… he’s scared that something is going to happen to him. I work downtown and I get out of my car and I park as closed as I can to the door. We don’t go to things downtown because we’re so afraid.”
And while his attacker Kilwa Jones apologized at his sentencing, the Sanna’s haven’t come to forgiveness. “Do I wish him harm, yes… yah I wish he was paralyzed.”
Wednesday on “Open Wounds – The Impact of Gun Violence in St. Louis” Carol Daniel tells us more about the trauma experienced by trauma nurses.