By Mohammad Samra
We arrived at Saint Sabina Church at about 8:30 a.m. Most of the passengers barely had their wits about them, while Father Michael Pfleger somehow managed enough strength to do a camera interview with one of the news outlets.
John Fountain, a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times and one of my professors at Roosevelt University, ordered two Lyft vans to take us back to the university.
I watched St. Sabina – and Washington D.C. – shrink in the rear-view mirror with each passing mile.
I entered Roosevelt and made my way to the third floor of the Auditorium building. I placed my backpack and overnight bag onto one of the soft, brown cushions while I attempted to gather the hundreds of thoughts racing through my mind. I was mentally and physically exhausted, I missed sleeping horizontally.
I boarded my usual Metra train, which carried me from Union Station to Palos Heights, where my mom and one-year-old brother Musa waited for me. After I caught up with my mom, I waited to pick up my three-year-old brother Omar from his bus stop. As he saw me approach his bus, he began grinning with excitement. It is safe to say he missed me, and I missed him too. I briefly conversed with my sisters about the trip and informed my dad about my experience in the nation’s capitol later that night.
I got to come home and pick my life up exactly where I left off, as did a majority of my colleagues who traveled to Washington. The same can’t be said for many of the hundreds of Chicagoans who made that same trip.
They went home to the reality that their loved ones lay in caskets with bullet holes tainting their once delicate body like graffiti on a million-dollar painting. They go home carrying emotional wounds almost as lethal as the bullet wounds that leave dead bodies in the streets of Chicago. They go home having to accept that someone who was once so easily accessible to them will never be seen again.
I was seconds from losing my one-year-old brother Musa to a health scare. Yet, there are some instances where one-year-old brothers are murdered by a bullet the size of their delicate little fists. They then become a statistic for a city with residents proud of its notoriety. No wonder so many people made the 700-mile journey. This isn’t about politics or the second amendment, it’s about the right to live.
All lives end one day. Nobody likes to think about it, but it’s the inevitable cycle of life. Many wish to die peacefully surrounded by family, but far too many die scared and alone without having the chance to say goodbye to all their loved ones. Nobody wants to stare down the barrel of an AR-15 as faint screams, followed by a loud thud, leaves you lying in a pool of your own blood while you cling desperately to life only to eventually let go.
I haven’t seen or heard from anyone who participated in the rally since I’ve been back. I read various pieces fellow colleagues wrote and got to understand what they got from the experience. Father Pfleger still strongly advocates for social justice through his sermons and social media accounts. At Roosevelt, we’ve had many discussions about what it meant to be a part of this trip as both a journalist and a human being. Covering the rally gained me valuable journalism experience, but it also taught me a life lesson.