The losses of life, the endless pain and suffering, the thousands of lives sent to prison, fatherless and motherless children and worst of all a parent having to bury their child.
Going back into my life I’ll never forget the tragedy that came with the first time I heard gunshots and then saw the horrific wreckage. Two people died that night, one a man I didn’t know and the other a best friend of mine. I wasn’t shot, I didn’t pull the trigger, but the bullets tore through my heart and soul.
I remember sitting next to my best friend who was laying there dead with a bullet in his head. His mother (Brenda) and little brother (Miles) came running toward us. I could only grab one in hopes to prevent them from seeing what I was looking at, so I grabbed little Miles and took him away from it. I was 17 and the following weeks and months were more than I could process.
Before the bullet flew, Aaron’s mom was always laughing and dancing. I would walk in the house every time and it was filled with music and energy. Brenda always hugged me. Yeah, we lived in the projects but as you know even in the projects we had moments of joy and laughter in our homes. Their house was one of my own safe places to go.
So now after the tragic murders I would go over to their house and I could feel death, I could see it in the eyes of Brenda, Miles and Derek (older brother.) No more joy, no more laughter.
This was my family and I couldn’t help them. As the days went by, months, I remember walking up to their house dreading every step in because I knew what waited for me through that door. The emotions sadness and pain, but I had to go check on them, so I would.
I didn’t understand what was going on, how to deal with it, nor did I understand what had happened to me. Every time I walked over to that house so much pain, confusion and guilt walked out with me. I was already an angry kid unable to process things like my emotions.
Processing this grief was way beyond my understanding. It was too powerful for me to deal with alone and alone I felt. So I did what I knew best and that was stuff it down deep and drown it with alcohol.
I became completely different and my emotional gate completely closed. I no longer felt bad when I took my pain and hurt out on others. My trauma was becoming someone else’s trauma.
I covered the pain with anger so I wouldn’t have to feel the loss, plus feeling angry was the one emotion I was very comfortable expressing. I became a ticking time bomb and everything near me paid the price, my family, girlfriend, my community, all those I assaulted for no reason, and worst of all, Frank Paul Jr., the man I murdered in a fit of rage.
I said all that to say this. When it comes to gun violence, when you choose to pick up a gun and fire that bullet, you’re not getting revenge, you’re not gaining status, you’re not getting justice, you’re not killing a rival gang member. What you’re doing is killing a kid no different than you. You’re killing kids, killing yourself, killing your family and killing innocent good people. You don’t know, you’re getting into existence a ripple effect beyond your imagination.
If you’ve witnessed a murder, have you thought how you’ve been affected by it? Did you start carrying a gun? No, you drowned the hurt, pain, fear, confusion with alcohol like me and hid those emotions behind anger, causing your rage to become a weapon.
That’s an example of a missed impact of every bullet, you and me.
But the good news is your story isn’t over and you can get yourself out of this cycle, little brothers and sisters. Put down your guns. Talk to someone to help you grieve so you can heal. Trust that people are there who will and want to help you. Don’t wait 35 years like I did.
Once you heal you can help heal that brother, sister next to you. Believe me, helping another heal and grow is a lot more powerful than a bullet will ever be. A man’s true strength is in healing, not harming. Your heart is more powerful than a million guns.
Rocky Hunt, in prison for first-degree murder since he was 21 in 1998, wrote this from Avenal State Prison in Avenal, Calif.
The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth, was founded by David Inocencio in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at email@example.com.