By Seth Daniel
As the sun rose on Washington Avenue and Orange Street Sunday morning, neighbors were grasping for answers to another – and even worse – shooting incident that had left the streets closed down and cordoned off and, in effect, a war zone situation.
They couldn’t leave the house.
They couldn’t ask questions, but they knew what had happened.
It wasn’t the first time, and neighbors were immediately broken hearted and at the same time fatigued by a scene that they hoped might not happen again.
But it did.
And it’s left everyone grasping for answers.
Why were the kids out so late?
Who provided the guns?
Where were the parents?
When will Congress act to stem the flow of illegal guns?
Was it related to gangs?
Why didn’t anyone in the building call police?
Was it targeted?
How did they get in a vacant apartment?
Those questions and many, many more flowed out as residents looked for some meaning to what essentially has no understandable meaning for an adult audience.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino was the first to chime in with a comprehensive letter issued to the public on Monday.
“Until this Country and its national leaders are going to take seriously the appalling number of guns on the streets of America, guns that often end up in the hands of young men under 20 whose brains haven’t even developed enough to control their worst emotional impulses, guns whose toll is felt most acutely in minority communities like Chelsea, we could add a hundred more police to our streets, and we still couldn’t end this violence,” he wrote. “Now, saying the City is prepared to do all it can to remediate the problems is not enough. We will not be successful if City government is working in isolation. Parents and guardians have to be willing to reach out for support if they feel their children are at risk. Tenants have to be willing to speak out to our Inspectional Services Department about problem landlords. Residents must be willing to be engaged and alert the police to something that seems out of the ordinary on their street or in their neighborhood. City officials don’t have all the answers. I stand willing to listen, and I know the Council is willing to listen, if you have some suggestions on how we can do an even better job keeping our City safe.”
On Wednesday evening, the community gathered at the crime scene for a vigil and March for Peace, which was coordinated by St. Rose Church and other clergy in the City. The march, which happened after Record deadlines, started at 120 Washington Ave. and was planned to proceed down to City Hall, where a speaking program was scheduled. It was billed as a time of healing for the community, and perhaps, a rally that could serve as the breaking point for everyone to come together to end what has been a string of terrible incidents involving youth over the last two years.
It was to conclude in St. Rose Church where Father Hilario Sanez Jr. was to observe a Mass calling for peace in Chelsea.
“Summer is around the corner and we need to be ready,” said Gladys Vega of the Chelsea Collaborative. “We need to be ready to do something different for the kids, maybe midnight basketball. I don’t know. And we need to make sure they have summer jobs. As a mother it’s devastating. It’s not good young people are out at that time. I’m not so much focusing on that part of what the kids were doing out at that hour as I am trying to figure out how that gun got into our community. Someone has successfully been brining guns into Chelsea from somewhere else, maybe New Hampshire, and selling them in our community. We need to find out who it is. There has to be a way to track them.”
Councillor Yamir Rodriguez, who represents the district and has dedicated his term to stemming such violence, has coordinated a crime meeting with resident Josh Cook and Father Edgar of St. Luke’s for some time next week. It is likely to be at Police Headquarters, but that wasn’t concrete yet.
In sum, a mother appeared at the City Council meeting on Monday – saying her son had been at the party when the shooting happened but had not been a victim or a suspect. In Spanish, she pleaded with the Council for help, seemingly at her wits end.
“As parents, we feel our hands are tied up,” said Lillian San Juan of Shurtleff Street. “We really can’t correct them because they say it is abuse. I am here to ask for help, to maybe have a curfew put in place where the kids cannot be out. A time when the police can ask them why they are out…I really believed my son was sleeping [at home]. I was awakened by the police banging at my door. They told me they had my son and were bringing him home and he had been at the shooting. There are many opportunities to make our city better and we need to work together to support them.”