Soulless monsters are killing our kids.
Last week, they shot up a car in the parking lot of a grocery store as people shopped inside. Every single night, gunshots ring out across the city. Nearly 1,500 people have been wounded by gunfire so far this year. Depending on where you live, Philly feels more like a war zone than a decent place to live.
Longtime residents such as Karen Robinson no longer feel safe. This Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary of the death of her daughter Jasmine Lewis, 20, who was fatally shot while driving in the 6000 block of East Wister Street in East Germantown. It was the worst time in Robinson’s life. She got through it with the help of relatives and friends such as Tiffaney Flynn, who sent Robinson inspirational messages each morning and stayed in touch.
I’m sad to report that now, nearly a year to the day that Lewis was killed, their roles are reversed. Flynn is now the one in need of comfort and support after her daughter was shot last week..
Ojanae Tamia Thompson, 19, was critically wounded Aug. 16 while sitting with a friend in a car in the parking lot outside the ShopRite supermarket in One Olney Plaza, 100 E. Olney Ave. Khyrie Isaac, 18, the car’s other occupant, was hit multiple times and died of his injuries. Since then, Thompson has undergone multiple surgeries and is clinging to life. Flynn is hopeful that her daughter, who attended Community College of Philadelphia with dreams of becoming a nurse, will pull through.
The day it happened, Flynn had just dropped off some of Robinson’s favorites — cheesesteak rolls and buffalo shrimp — and written the words Justice for Jaz on the packaging.
“After she dropped it off, I texted her and I said, ‘Thank you. It was so good, Tiff.’ I said, ‘You know, they are around there shooting at the market.’ I knew she had to go home and she lives that way,” Robinson recalled. “She said, ‘I know. We can’t have nothing. These people are going crazy.’ I said, ‘I love you. Call me or text me when you get in.’ And then come to find out, they were saying it was Ojanae, her daughter. That’s when my daughter and me, we ran to the hospital.”
Flynn has been keeping a vigil by her daughter’s bedside but plans to take a break on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. when she and Robinson will lead a demonstration demanding justice for their daughters. The motorcycle bike ride/walk will start outside Einstein Medical Center, 5501 Old York Rd., where Thompson is hospitalized, and proceed to the Olney Avenue location where she was shot.
“This is not just for my daughter. This is for Philadelphia,” said Flynn. “I don’t want my neighbors’ kids to be hurt. I don’t want the people across the street’s kids to be hurt. I don’t want to see nobody else’s kids being hurt. It’s not just about my daughter. … It’s about everybody. It’s about spreading this word and stopping this violence.”
Thousands need to show up and walk with these grieving moms on Saturday. If nothing else, it will show our collective outrage about this senseless bloodshed. No one is safe from it. Stray bullets like the one that hit Lewis have no names on them. Police haven’t made an arrest in her or Thompson’s shootings.
On Sunday, to mark the anniversary of her daughter’s death, Robinson has organized a balloon release and party with food, music, and motivational speakers in Lewis’ memory. It’s scheduled for 5 p.m. at Fisher Park at Fifth and Spencer Streets. Robinson is expecting some of her daughter’s friends and former basketball teammates.
No doubt, Flynn will be there as well.
“She was just a good support system,” Robinson said. “She was really there for me, helping me out, and it turned around and happened to her.
“It’s so hard. I went to the hospital the first night,” she added. “It brought back too many memories. I haven’t been back, but I talk to her every morning and send her things. We talk back and forth, but I can’t put myself back in that place because I’m already weak.”
After what she’s been through, Robinson is doing well to even be able to participate in this weekend’s events. No mother should experience what these two women have. Thankfully, though, they have each other.