I found out this morning that one of my former students, Hakeem Witcher, probably shot and killed another boy on Friday.
I taught Hakeem and his sister. I knew their little sister. I knew their mother. I called her all the time. I spoke to her when she’d pick them up from school. I remember trying to help her when she asked what to do one night. She was overwhelmed enough to ask for help from some stupid first-year teacher who didn’t even have kids of his own.
After I left New Bridge, I saw his mom a few more times. She said Hakeem was up in New Jersey with his dad- that she just couldn’t control him. It didn’t sound good. At some point I saw Hakeem as well. I can’t recall exactly where or when now. He’d started to harden some, a hint of a mustache growing on his face, but that kid who really wanted to please was still there. He wanted to know why I left New Bridge. I probably said something about money. It’s an easy cop out.
I really just remember how much I liked Hakeem, how much I hope that there’s still that reachable core of good in him. I know there’s a poor boy who’s dead here and family that’s grieving for him. I know that. There’s also a boy who’s 18 and likely to go to jail for murder.
The thing is we’ve had a number of students killed and shot but it didn’t hit me quite like having one who might be the killer. Bad things can happen to good kids, but it’s much worse to think about that good kid, the one you knew you connected with, doing the one of worst things possible.
What’s sad is I don’t see much hope for change here. I don’t see our schools as being equipped to deal with this. I don’t see our government handling it. I don’t see myself doing anything that matters either.