It's stunning how quickly this city can bring you back down to earth. Thursday morning, I walked into The Post with the previous night's Democratic convention oratory ringing in my ears, and was mulling over plans to write a column about city or national politics, when I found this voice mail message waiting for me:

"You've written lies about my child, my car and me. That car involved in a shooting on Saturday that resulted in the death of Myesha, the 15-year-old, was not involved in any type of gang activity. I'm the owner, I don't belong to a gang." The caller was steaming. "My daughter is the driver. She is not involved in any gang. And my son who's in the Air Force . . . only gang he's in is the United States Air Force gang."

She wasn't through with me.

"And you need to stop writing lies. You want to know what really happened, you need to stop talking to persons that's telling you lies. There's not gang activity here. This was shooting by ignorant persons. And it resulted in the death of an innocent child."

It so happens that I had not written a word about the slaying of Myesha Lowe, although I knew about the shooting from news accounts. The phone call, erroneously directed to me, did, however, remind me of a grim reality that's always close at hand, even as Washington headlines are dominated by national and international events.

Teenagers such as Myesha are being snuffed out in the nation's capital almost as frequently as lives are being taken by roadside bombs in Baghdad.

There are others: So far this year, David McMorris, 16; Antwain Holroyd, 17; Michael Simms, 16; Chelsea Cromartie, 8; Jahkema "Princess" Hansen, 14; Wardell Smith, 17; James Richardson, 17; and Timothy Hamilton, 15, have been slain in our city. But they aren't the only victims. A caretaker allegedly beat a 1-year-old girl to death. And a 10-month-old girl was poisoned, allegedly by her mother. The number of children younger than 17 murdered this year? Seventeen. Last year's total: 12. Those incidents don't even include the 12-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet as she sat on her front porch. Fortunately she didn't die.

Let's return to Myesha.

The teenager was sitting in the back seat of a parked car in the 1400 block of F Street NE when, according to police documents, she suffered a "gunshot wound to the head, which appeared to have entered the left side . . . and traveled to the right side of her head." She was also shot in the left leg. She wasn't the intended victim.

There's more to it, though.

From interviews and police documents presented in court, the following allegedly occurred: Myesha was in the back seat and two young women were sitting in the front talking and listening to music when a car with three men in it pulled up alongside. One of the young women recognized the front-seat passenger as "Josh" from the Trinidad neighborhood of Northeast Washington. The women told police they looked over and saw "Josh" and a back-seat passenger aiming handguns at them. The two women ducked down. "Josh" and the back-seat passenger began firing. When the shooting stopped, the two women got out of their car and saw that Myesha had been shot in the head.

On Wednesday, authorities arrested Joshua Ross, 20, aka "Josh," "Joshua Rose," and "James K. Williams," and charged him with first-degree murder. They say he admitted to the shooting. Police hope to nab the second gunman soon.

Ross was more than a familiar face peering from a car window. As a young teen, he had been in the home of the woman behind the wheel of the car, I was told by a source in a position to know. He's also a friend of her brother.

Ross, single, unemployed with a 10th-grade education and the father of one, according to his pretrial services report, is no candidate for Boy Scout of the Year. There was a triple shooting that occurred just before midnight on July 14 on Holbrook Terrace NE. The three victims, one of whom died, were drug dealers from the Richmond area, according to a police source. Ross is a person of interest in that shooting, and maybe four or five other homicides, say police and a neighborhood source.

To state that Myesha's shooting was not a random act is an understatement. The car she was in drew fire from two weapons, a .40-caliber handgun and a 9mm pistol. Sixteen shell casings were found at the scene. The shooters meant business. They were after one of the women in the car, possibly the driver, because of her possible connections to a drug dealer the shooters were hunting, police say. Not getting him, they went after her -- simple as that.

Dropping by the scene of the crime on F Street later Thursday morning, I saw that the yellow crime scene tape and a community vigil had come and gone. But all the familiar aftereffects of homicide were on display: the hastily erected shrine to the deceased, the balloons, teddy bears and candles. A patrol car was parked across the street, and extra police cars were roving the area just as the local police commander had promised.

Thursday afternoon brought a close look at Josh Ross, adorned in handcuffs linked to a waist chain and wearing jeans and an Atlanta Hawks jersey No. 3 with the name "Abdur-Rahim" across the back. Even in restraints, he looked like a rough dude as he faced the judge during his arraignment in Room C-10 of Superior Court. The fact that marshals stood four abreast between Ross and the courtroom audience with a fifth marshal covering their backs was testimony to the perceived threat posed by Ross and his Trinidad crew.

Speaking of threats, The Post reported last Monday that 16-year-old David McMorris was killed when "two men" opened fire on him last week. Yesterday morning brought news that D.C. police had arrested and charged George Edwards in McMorris's slaying. Edwards is only 14 years old. Can Baghdad touch this?

That's the way it is, every day of the week, far from the world of Washington politics, pundits and the presidential sweepstakes.