Counting and Community Gun Violence

This past Thursday, June 2, would have been Hadiya Pendleton’s 19th birthday. She was killed before her sixteenth in a Chicago park on January 29, 2013 – making news at the time because she’d just returned from performing in Obama’s second Inaugural Parade.

That spring, Hadiya’s classmates at King College Prep started a nonviolence effort, known as Project Orange Tree, in her memory. That evolved into #WearOrange for Gun Violence Awareness Day, now observed nationally on June 2. In the spirit of this awareness day, I offer a glimpse into the world of Hadiya and the three friends who were with her when she was shot,  taken from a 2013 Chicago Trib article:


The next day, Kyra was back in gym class. As always. The teacher was taking attendance. As always.As he proceeded through the alphabet toward the P’s, she wondered: Would he call Hadiya Pendleton?

When he didn’t, students cried.

…And like the rest of Hadiya’s friends, Kyra counted the Tuesdays since Hadiya died.

Tuesday, week one.
Tuesday, week two.
Tuesday, week three…. ….


…For years, [Danetria] had fought depression.

“If you do run away,” Hadiya promised, “you can come to my house. I can tell my mom the whole situation, and she’ll understand.”

With Hadiya gone, Danetria wondered, “Who am I going to talk to now?”

….A month after Hadiya died, Danetria turned 16. It was coincidentally, Tuesday, week four. No balloons, no sweet 16 cake, just a quiet birthday dinner with [her boyfriend] Lawrence and his mom…. ….


…Over the next few weeks, [Klyn] wrote letters to Hadiya in a notebook.

One day, bored in math class at [her new school], she was writing a letter when she started to cry.

“What’s wrong?” her classmates asked. If she were still at King, she thought, they’d know.

She wrote letters to the two young men charged in the killings, too. She told them she feels bad for them, bad that they have been so warped by a system that would make them think killing was OK.

She never sent the letters, and she lost the notebook, but it felt good to lay her anger and confusion out on the lined pages.

The Tuesdays passed, her loneliness didn’t…. ….


…[The three teens no longer saw each other regularly when they met up in spring 2013.] It was, coincidentally, the 13th Tuesday after Hadiya’s death, but they don’t count Tuesdays so much anymore. They count months. Monday made three months.

— Jennifer Delgado, Bridget Doyle and Mary Schmich
much more in the thorough Tribune article, including video links

The article’s time-counting motif seems fitting for the period of the Omer, when we enumerate the days and the weeks between Passover and Shavuot. June 4, for example, was 42 days of the Omer, making six weeks. Some would also call it the day of malchut b’yesod — translated as something like “nobility in bonding” — based on a mystical counting system.

Similarly, the losses associated with Hadiya’s death were reckoned in small and large ways – in gym class and in long-term desolation — as well as in ways harder to express.

“That bullet did a lot more than just kill my baby,” Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton has said.

But we can also count the ways, small and large and harder to express, that Hadiya’s bright spark continues to inspire conversation and thought, prayer and action. The toll of shootings like Hadiya’s — psychologically, economically, educationally, and otherwise — is staggering. But the blessing of her memory is enormous, too.

Learn More, Connect

Remarks given at Temple Micah (DC), June 4, 2016
See also 2013 post and yahrzeit remarks 2014
Visit Hadiya’s Promise for more on the Pendleton’s work
See “OrangeOut: Race and Gun Sense” for more on Project Orange Tree and the need for community-sensitive responses to gun violence
See also  Community-Sensitive Gun Sense
Resources: Holistic Approaches and People of Color

Published by


Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages, blogs on general stuff a and more Jewish topics at and

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s