In year of 3,000 shoot­ings, US teen faces life be­yond bul­let

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

He sud­denly felt as if a hot wire had torn through his chest. It hurt to breathe. Jonathan An­nicks wasn’t sure he’d been shot. It was af­ter mid­night when he’d dashed out­side his fam­ily’s house to re­trieve a phone charger from the car. Now, slumped over in an­guish, he fran­ti­cally punched his brother’s num­ber into his phone. “You might have to take me to the hospi­tal,” he gasped. “Come out­side, please!” A hooded stranger had jumped from a van, fired seven shots, then sped away. In­cred­i­bly, only one struck Jonathan.

The 9 mm bul­let plowed into his left shoul­der, punc­tured both lungs, frac­tured his spine and lodged in his right side of his rib cage un­der his arm. At 18, Jonathan’s life was about to take a cruel de­tour. It was early April and there al­ready were signs that 2016 was go­ing to be a very vi­o­lent year in Chicago. By fall, the city’s homi­cide rate ap­proached 600. Shoot­ings ex­ceeded 3,000. Gangs and guns - on av­er­age, po­lice seized an il­le­gal weapon ev­ery 61 min­utes - are the ma­jor cul­prits. More than 70 per­cent of those killed here this year were on a spe­cial po­lice list of peo­ple with crim­i­nal records of gang his­to­ries.

Mis­taken iden­tity

But there are oth­ers who’ve been caught up in the may­hem: vic­tims of rob­bery, mis­taken iden­tity, stray bul­lets or gang cross­fire. Some in­ci­dents are par­tic­u­larly heinous, oth­ers in­spi­ra­tional. Jonathan An­nicks’ story is both, a life trans­formed, but not de­fined, by a sin­gle bul­let. His in­jury had dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences. He’s now par­a­lyzed from the mid-chest down. The bul­let missed his heart by an inch, se­verely bruis­ing his spinal cord. Over the past six months, his jour­ney has been marked by re­silience, change and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to look ahead. “I couldn’t stress about why I had been shot,” he says.

“It wasn’t worth if to stay sad be­cause then I would just be making my life harder and I re­al­ized that very quickly . ... There was no point in sulk­ing over some­thing I couldn’t change.” Jonathan was shot on April 10 in Lit­tle Vil­lage, a neigh­bor­hood about 20 min­utes from down­town. The com­mu­nity, which has a large Mex­i­can pop­u­la­tion, is home to cozy taque­rias, panade­rias (bak­eries) - but also gangs. Jonathan’s home is on a boule­vard that’s a di­vid­ing line for op­pos­ing Latino gangs, po­lice say, and he may have been mis­taken for a ri­val gang member. Jonathan says it’s point­less to think about the shooter. “If I lived with spite ev­ery day, then I don’t think I would be able to func­tion prop­erly,” he says. “I’d be very mis­er­able if I were wor­ry­ing about what he’s do­ing or where he is.”In­stead, he’s focused on re­build­ing his strength and learn­ing new ways to get out of bed, shower and dress. He also had to get ac­cus­tomed to a catheter. It took time, too, to over­come the “why me” feel­ing and the sense of guilt that he was putting new pres­sure on his fam­ily. “Peo­ple had to shape their lives in or­der to ac­com­mo­date me,” he says, “but af­ter I re­al­ized they were there be­cause they loved me ... I didn’t have any­thing to worry about.” His mother, Her­linda, has been a steady source of com­fort since she told her son in the emer­gency room: “What­ever the out­come is, you’re still here. You are who you are. We’ll be fine. We’ll deal with it.” She’s been his cheer­leader and cham­pion, jug­gling her job as a trust bank ad­min­is­tra­tor with tak­ing Jonathan to the doc­tor and phys­i­cal ther­apy, cut­ting through in­surance red tape, help­ing him each morn­ing - and ad­mon­ish­ing him when she thought he was be­ing lazy or self­ish. — AP

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