When the alarm goes off, I know first responders are on the way with your target.
We stand outside, dressed in plastic gowns, gloves, and bonnets. We are sweating profusely as we wait for your target’s arrival. We hear the sirens from a distance. They get louder as they get closer. They race down the hill and come to an abrupt stop. We can smell the burning rubber of the tires. The door swings open and there lies your target, bloody and unconscious.
We struggle to pull his lifeless body, covered with bullet holes and blood, out of the car. It becomes a struggle to get him out as the moisture from the blood makes it difficult to get a tight grasp.
We get your target to the trauma bay as we empty several code carts full of medical supplies, injecting several lifesaving medications into his still body. Techs stand in line taking turns performing chest compressions. The trauma team cracks his chest open to manually compress his heart to keep what little blood he has left circulating.
After we have exhausted all measures, the attending doctor announces, “Time of death.” The techs bag his cut-up clothes as well as his body. Two tags are applied, one to his big toe and the other to the outside of the body bag.
The detectives arrive to investigate your target’s murder case. They are tired, eyes red as they take in yet another senseless murder. I stand quietly and pray for your soul, as well as the soul of your target.
Then, your target’s mother arrives. The echo of her piercing scream can be heard throughout the hospital. “They took my baby!” is a phrase I’ve heard all too often over my seven years in this job. It replays over and over in my head.
After witnessing the mayhem you have created, I am supposed to go back to my assignment as if I did not just see yet another Black man take his last breath. I’m supposed to resume my duties knowing, because of your actions, I will be haunted by his mother’s cries tonight as I lie in my bed, trying to go to sleep.
There’s no amount of money they could pay us, nothing they could do to mentally prepare me and my colleagues for what we see on the job. As the murder rate climbs in Philadelphia, gunshot victims come in every day, sometimes as many as five times in one night.
Victims like your target remind me of my children, young Black men with their whole lives ahead of them. I’m tired of seeing all this death, of seeing these young men die.
I wish you would wait before you pick up that weapon. I wish you could come talk to me. I would have begged you not to do this.
And I would have asked you questions, because I just don’t understand.
How did it get to this point? Was this really not something that could be discussed between you and your target? Can you tell me what happened with your generation, our culture, that it’s come to this? When you decided to pull that trigger, what was going through your mind? What made you devalue human life?
That life you took was someone’s son, just as you are. He was a little girl’s daddy whom she adored, a little boy’s father whom he idolized. His family will feel this pain forever. They are your victims too.
Like any family, when you were born, those around you wanted the best for you. They never imagined that their little boy would grow up to become a young adult filled with so much hate that he could do the unthinkable and commit murder.
I’m tired of pulling bloody, lifeless, bullet-filled bodies out of cars. I am supposed to care for little 80-year-old women and babies with runny noses. I wasn’t supposed to see these boys who look like my own children dying every single day.
There are so many times I want to walk away, but if I do, I will be deserting my community and my culture. I can’t do that. But these days it feels as if I am a nurse in the middle of a war. I wake up every day knowing I will have to watch another Black man take his last breath. And over what?
Our ancestors fought for our freedom; they were murdered for our freedom. I don’t think they risked it all for us to murder each other.
Please, before you pick up that gun again, placing your life at risk, risking your freedom and ending another life, talk to whoever plays a significant role in your life. A parent, uncle, pastor. You are about to make the worst mistake of your life.
Ruqiyya Greer, a Philadelphia native, has been a trauma nurse for seven years.