A FAMILY STOOD arm-in-arm by the China King takeout in Nicetown last night, their hands gripping a stop sign tightly as if a wave of grief were about to wash them off the corner of Hicks and Bristol streets.
There were close to 1,000 people crowded around them, nearly a whole block of Hicks Street dressed mostly in black, holding balloons and candles that reflected in the tears running down their cheeks. They came to remember Terrance "Bird" Cox, 25, who was shot dead a few feet from the stop sign Thursday night, with police still looking for the gunman who killed him and injured two others in what they described as an "execution-style" ambush.
Sobs rose from pockets of the crowd along with shouts of "Miss You, Bird" and "Bird Game," a reference to Cox's skills on the basketball court in the past, when he was a standout at Dobbins Tech, and in the present, his game still sharp on Philly playgrounds far and wide.
"You know it's us today, but tomorrow it could be any of y'all," Cox's father, Keith Lyons, told the crowd that encircled him. "I'd like us all to help stop the senseless violence."
Then, one-by-one, the mourners placed tall candles beneath China King's gated side window, right where Cox was hit, until several dozen lit up the corner. People left stuffed animals and basketballs covered in signatures placed all around the candles, and the collection of grief icons continued to grow as the sun went down.
In a rowhouse across the street, a child watched the scene through a torn curtain.
Cox's death was so senseless, the crowd said repeatedly, because he was one of the good guys, a victim who didn't seek or find trouble, they said.
In Philadelphia that doesn't seem to matter much.
Earlier in the day, about five miles south in the city's Grays Ferry neighborhood, a memorial with more stuffed animals and similar tall candles grew at the base of a stone front porch on Etting Street near Dickinson. Tynirah Borum's death Friday made even less sense than Cox's if there really is a scale of violence: a 3-year-old girl shot in the chest while getting her hair braided outside on a summer night.
Even though police had arrested one man, Douglas Woods, 22, they were still looking for an alleged accomplice yesterday afternoon. Last night, police issued an arrest warrant for a second 22-year-old man.
Few people wanted to talk on the block. A 24-year-old man and 28-year-old woman were also hit but they were still alive, police said, as of last night.
A woman who said she was Borum's grandmother braced herself with a cane on the narrow street's sidewalks. She had given up asking "why" or any other question about the violence that taxes the city's poorest neighborhoods.
"I'm gonna move, that's what I'm gonna do. I'm getting my family and getting the hell out of here," said the woman, 55.
A few houses down, Ruby Albany, the block captain, did a quick calculation on her own front porch when asked how many memorials for gunshot victims she's seen around.
"After this one, it's four. On this street," said Albany, 45. "This is all good, all this attention, but what's gonna happen tomorrow?"
Back on Hicks Street in Nicetown, Elder Curtis Johnson, of Joy Temple Holiness Church, prayed for God to walk the streets there, to heal any hurting heart in the crowd and touch others poisoned with revenge.
Children stood wedged between the adults edging toward the memorial and listened. Some got hoisted up high to see the black balloons float into a dreary sky above the block.
"I'm telling you, all this boy did was play ball. That's it, but he's dead anyway," Percy Thompson, 44, said of Cox. "All this right here, it's gonna last until the next murder, and we'll move along to the next candle."
A block away, at Bristol and 15th streets, waterlogged stuffed animals sat at the base of another stop sign, an older memorial for another victim whose name had faded.
The dozen-or-so candles were dark, their wax splattered out on the sidewalk, the blood that brought them there long since washed away.