Sarah Rorie was standing at the back window of her home in Capitol Heights last week when she saw a man get into a fight with her son, Anthony, 35. She told me during an interview at her home yesterday that she saw the man put a knife to her son's throat and then heard a gunshot.
The man, Gilbert Wood, 50, of Branchville, Va., was killed. Her son was arrested by Prince George's County police and charged with first-degree murder and a firearms violation.
"It hurts. It makes me want to cry," Rorie said. "I hate it that my son had to do that, and I hate that a man had to die."
That was one homicide. From Thursday through Saturday, there were six other killings in the District, where there have been at least 152 homicides so far this year, and in Prince George's, which has recorded at least 131.
I visited several of the weekend crime scenes just to see what happens to a neighborhood after a homicide. Are people deeply concerned, fed up and ready to take action? Or do the deaths mean nothing, as it sometimes appears?
"I'm still so nervous about what I saw that I can hardly speak," Rorie said, patting her chest. Her grandson, 1-year-old Anthony Rorie Jr., came running to the door with a grin on his face. He looked at me, then up at her, bewildered. Was he expecting someone else? His father, perhaps?
Ray-Neshia Bevins took over for Sarah Rorie. "That man was trying to kill my uncle," she said, "and my uncle just did what he had to do." Ray-Neshia is 14, but at that moment, her childhood seemed gone forever.
This spate of black-on-black killings made for an unseemly backdrop to the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, which was celebrated on the Mall and at other venues in the city this weekend.
In 1995, a million or so black men were drawn to the Mall in a show of solidarity. Disenchanted with media portrayals of black men as criminals -- as well as with black criminals themselves for fueling the stereotypes -- participants made a pledge, in unison, that "from this day forward, I will strive to love my brothers as I love myself."
But for brothers who did not love themselves, however, there was nothing to strive for, and over the next 10 years, those loveless men would wreak havoc on the communities where they lived.
Homicides sap the soul of communities and poison them with fear, anger and resentment. Lingering distrust and cynicism obstruct even the best efforts to heal and rebuild.
Asked whether Wood's death in Capitol Heights had caused sadness in the neighborhood, a man who was walking past the scene of the shooting responded that no one cares "about nobody but themselves these days."
On Friday night, D.C. police found Miguel Henry, 20, on the ground in the 300 block of 50th Street NE with bullet wounds to his head and body. Henry had been wanted on an arrest warrant charging him with a carjacking in Maryland. James Fletcher, 23, was found early Saturday outside his home in the 600 block of Irving Street NW with shots to his body. James Michael Campbell was discovered 10 minutes later shot in the head in an alley in the 1600 block of E Street NE. Nigel T. Ross, 28, was shot Thursday near a rooming house where he lived in Boulevard Heights. And Nnandi Gibson Obi-Rapu was found shot in the head Friday in the 3900 block of 10th Street NE.
Tim Robertson, 27, told me he was walking Friday morning to his maintenance job when he heard the news: A 22-year-old man, William Cureton, had been killed and another man wounded in a shooting that morning in the 1700 block of Savannah Street SE.
Asked what it was like to see yellow police tape stretched across his sidewalk first thing in the morning, Robertson said, "It's always a shame when somebody dies. But it's kind of like a sign of the times. You kind of get immune to it."
That's seven homicides, five in just two days. More if you count the death of the spirit in those who cease to care.