Our children are dying as gun violence rips through our communities, and too many of us are content to believe it’s someone else’s problem.

It’s true that the shootings are concentrated in places where poverty is prevalent, where education is shoddy, and where resources are scarce. However, in a city where we live in such close quarters, poverty exists alongside our prosperous neighborhoods, and in close proximity to our most prominent institutions. The gunfire affects all of us deeply; sometimes in profoundly personal ways.

And sometimes, as my wife learned Wednesday while walking along Susquehanna Avenue in North Philadelphia, we’re closer to the bullets than we think.

It was around 3 in the afternoon when my wife, LaVeta, got off the subway and started the two-block trek to 16th Street, where she’d parked her car after dropping my son off at school that morning. She’d spent the day downtown, and it was easier to park and take the subway than to deal with the traffic and the cost of Center City parking.

» READ MORE: Intersections of Injustice | Philadelphia shootings surge in 2021, in communities historically affected by poverty, blight and systemic racism

Susquehanna Avenue was familiar to her, after all. We are both graduates of nearby Temple University, and my son is a senior at Carver High School of Engineering and Science. She knows the rhythm of that street — a street where poverty and gentrification are locked in a dance that is, in turns, yielding and hostile. That’s why she knew what she saw on 15th Street was a bad sign.

“I saw police cars at the intersection, and one was blocking the intersection, and I knew that something had happened,” she told me when I asked her about it later.

She snapped a photo of the scene on her phone, and as she drew closer, she realized that there was a backpack in the street. Two kids were standing in the doorway of a corner store, and my wife asked them what happened.

“They responded that someone had been shot,” she said. “I told them to be careful, and they told me to be careful, too …

“I assumed — and I think it was wishful thinking on my part — that an adult had been shot,” my wife told me. “Someone that may have been involved in drugs. That was my assumption.”

» READ MORE: Philly’s homicide crisis in 2021 featured more guns, more retaliatory shootings, and a decline in arrests and convictions

Her assumption turned out to be wrong

Hours after the incident, as the two of us were sitting together on the couch, I heard my wife gasp. She was staring at her phone, realizing that the video she was watching was about the incident she’d nearly witnessed earlier that day.

Fifteen-year-old Juan Carlos Robles-Corona of the 2200 block of North 15th Street, an eighth-grade student at the Tanner Duckery School, was shot and killed just a few minutes before my wife passed the crime scene. He’d been dismissed from school about a half-hour early and was just a few blocks from his home when he was shot four times.

His mother, Maria Balbuna, told reporters that she believed an argument at school might have led to the shooting. “As a mother, I just need to know what happened,” she told 6abc. “I need this closure for me. We didn’t come here for this. We didn’t come here for this. I need to know why. What did he do? What did he do to be killed like this and left in the street like garbage?”

“There’s just a void that’s left.”

LaVeta Jones

Balbuna was understandably inconsolable about the loss of the oldest of her four children. But when my wife saw the story, she was heartbroken as well.

“In the video, I saw that same backpack that I had seen as I was walking by,” my wife told me. “And it made me think about our son. That could’ve been our son. It dredged up sad memories of [our son’s] friend being shot to death at that same age — the age of 15. I also thought about the parents’ grief, losing their child. And the ripple effects of the grief that would affect everyone within that child’s sphere — friends, school community, neighbors, and just the sad rituals that accompany the murders of young people.

“The memorials, the balloon release, the funeral service, young people trying to manage their grief. The student’s empty desk, the student’s no longer there. There’s just a void that’s left.”

That void affects all of us. At any time, we can be swept up into the chaos of gun violence, no matter who we are. That’s why we can no longer pretend it’s someone else’s problem. We must all work together to solve it.