There is still life in the flowers that ring 8-year-old Chelsea Cromartie's freshly turned grave. Almost two dozen loving arrangements. Hers is the 13th child's grave dug in Washington so far this year -- one more child homicide than in all of 2003. Maybe in life, only their mommas or daddies or neighborhoods cared about these children. Except when they didn't. But we all love them so when they are gone. We bring roses and orchids and bright, sturdy carnations to honor the dead.

You straighten the flowers as a gesture of respect, but the wind blows them over. You arrange them carefully to show that you believe this life had meaning, but the wind knocks them down. You press the flowers firmly in their pots, twisting their stems and squeezing the leaves so that all can bear witness to your resolve. You prop them up as best you can, even if deep down you know that when you leave, they will fall again.

But they fall before you even step away.

Now there is a decision to be made.

The flowers are going to blow over, but you have to go, because you have so many other things you have to do.

That's the grave of the little girl on TV, says a woman in the parking lot nearby.

So sad, says another woman. You're not safe anyplace anymore.

Suddenly you decide: The flowers will not fall.

You put yourself between the flowers and all the things that blow the flowers down. You anchor their petals behind stronger, more wind-resistant vines. And you scratch at the ground, fixing their stands deep in the earth. The dirty work covers your skin and gets underneath your nails and all across your shirt, forcing you to cancel your plans and stay longer than you meant. Still, there are things that must be done. This time the flowers hold -- at least long enough for you to leave.

So begins a most determined new campaign.

Save the flowers!

Because in Washington, the children are dying.

Flowers, ribbons and hearts adorn the grave of Chelsea Cromartie, who was killed by a stray bullet that crashed through a window of her aunt's apartment. She was 8 years old.