A mother’s account of what it’s like to lose your child to gun violence
The following post originally appears on The Huffington Post under the title, “This Is What It;’s Like To Lose Your Own Child To Gun Violence.”
By: Annette Nance-Holt (told to Joseph Erbentraut)
On May 10, 2007, Annette Nance-Holt lost her only child, 16-year-old Blair, when a gang member opened fire on the Chicago bus he was riding. Blair dove in front of a bullet, saving the life of a classmate.
Chicago is again facing startling levels of gun violence this summer. Though more than seven years have passed since Blair was shot, Nance-Holt, a Chicago Fire Department battalion chief, says she still thinks about her son daily — he is the first thing on her mind every morning, and the last thing each night. This is her story.
I remember taking Blair to school that day. He was a junior at Julian High School. We were talking that day about what was next for him.
He loved music — writing lyrics and producing — and that was his goal. To do music. He knew he wanted to go to college; he wanted to go to Clark in Atlanta. He said he wanted to get a degree in business so he could have his own record company and know how to run it and not lose it.
He was very conscientious about everything so early. I remember telling him that this weekend we’re going to have a heart-to-heart, that’s what we called it, on what to do and how we were going to get there.
When we got to the school, I told him to do good. I always said “do good” to him [when I dropped him off]. That was our thing. Whatever you do today, make sure it’s good. And I told him I loved him. He’s like, “Love you too, Mom,” and “See you later,” and we said goodbye. I was going to see a play that day — “The Color Purple” with my sorority sisters — so he said he would take the bus to his grandma and grandpa’s store in Roseland after school.
I got a call when I got back home from a cousin who said they thought Blair’d been shot. I was like, “What?” I knew Blair was a good kid and there was no way he’d been shot, there was no way anything like that could happen to somebody who was so good.
Everyone I called didn’t know who I was because I was so rattled. I called the fire house nearest to me and asked if they heard anything about somebody being shot at Julian. The lieutenant said for me to calm down and said he would check and get back to me. I got in the car and was driving and called his father, who’s a cop, and told him I thought something had happened to Blair. I told him I called Blair’s phone but hadn’t heard from him.
[His father] had called me earlier that day to ask me what my badge number was because I’d just been promoted to captain and he said Blair wanted to buy me an exact replica of the badge for Mother’s Day. He said I should calm down and that nothing had happened to Blair. That he was a good kid and nothing was wrong. At that same moment, he was fighting for his life, but I didn’t know that.
I swear I was driving through red lights and through everything because I had to get to him. I knew if I could get to him, he’d live. I went to Mary’s, the first hospital nearest to Julian, and they said, yes, he’d been shot. It’s not a critical trauma center so I knew it was bad when they told me he went to [Advocate Christ Medical Center].
When I got to Christ, they let me upstairs. All our coworkers and neighbors in Roseland came. It got so crowded up there that they closed a whole floor up because it was nothing but city employees and young people. My mother and father came. My pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, started praying.
I was just like, “God, just let him live. I will quit my job and do whatever it is to take care of him if I need to. Just let him live.” He was fighting for his life. But then his heart stopped. They came out and said he’d gone and I remember saying, “God, come on!” He’s my only child and he means everything to me. Now I don’t understand what you’re telling me.”
I ran through the crowds of people because I just didn’t want to deal with that. And I just collapsed on the floor.
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