I began the walk home from my daily workout on a Tuesday evening. I stepped outside to the deafening sirens of a police car and a paramedic's vehicle racing down the street just past me. As I walked down the street, I glanced to my right to see white and green balloons tied around the midsection of the trunk of a tree. Below the balloons, flowers and candles rested at the base of the tree.
I walked with urgency until I reached my street. I noticed a swarm of red and blue police lights flashing in the distance. My heart dropped. I felt a sickening pain in my stomach. I saw a Black man being carried into a paramedic's vehicle on a stretcher. There was yellow tape surrounding the scene, which notoriously means "crime."
I had seen countless scenes just like this one displayed on the news. Most often, someone was pronounced dead. People who seemed to be the man's family members stood on the steps of their home in shock. They were gazing upon the scene and attempting to comfort each other. The misery on their faces filled my heart with sorrow as I hurried past the scene, now desperate to get home. I walked the eight houses home and locked the door. I thought, "Not again!"
Hours later, there was news coverage regarding the shooting. Two people had been shot. One was in critical condition, another dead. The shooting, as reported, happened just nine minutes before I walked past the scene.
I was angry and confused. Ten minutes was potentially the only thing that had prevented my own death. Later, as I walked down the street, I saw another tree assigned to a newly lost life at the hands of our community.
Many North Side trees bear the names of victims of gun violence. Those names include my own father's. His blood also ran through the streets in north Minneapolis. He was shot, robbed and killed. His body was left lifelessly slumped over the steering wheel of his car. Now he has his own tree.
As a Black, teenage male I no longer feel safe in my community. After the killing of George Floyd and the reduction of the Minneapolis Police Department, there has been uncontrollable crime in this city. Bullets fly through the streets, into cars and walls. There is constant gunfire day and night, through heat and cold.
I fear for our community, when temperatures increase and summer rolls around.
It seems there is no one to turn to for safety. It feels like my death is already written on the sidewalks here, as if I have an hourglass above my head, monitoring the time left before my life is taken. It seems as if all hope is lost. If I remain living here, it may cost me my life.
I do not feel that I can stay in north Minneapolis over the summer. I live in a cemetery, with trees as tombstones for those who have fallen victim to gun violence. Families visit these trees as you would visit the grave of a loved one.
In a cemetery, there are people who died of old age and disease. In north Minneapolis, the tombstones I see are for people just like me — young, Black and male. When I look at a tree I can imagine my name and a picture of my face on it with balloons. Below the balloons, flowers and candles rest at the base of the tree.
Visualize yourself living across from a cemetery. Imagine how you would feel every morning, walking down the street and looking at fresh graves, increasing weekly. It is not fun. It is hard to think that you are unsafe in the place you call home. I fear that I will be another news story, another body bagged, another statistic.
I fear that I will have a tree with my name on it.
Marcus Hunter II lives in Minneapolis.