IDO not see a dead body in a pool of blood every week, or even every month. I saw a shooting victim quite recently, but his head had been only grazed by the bullet. The week before, I saw a car full of inch-wide bullet holes which had crashed into a tree. But everybody inside was okay, the police said. Neither event even made the local news.
I live about a mile from the U.S. Capitol, on the eastern edge of the Capitol Hill community that claims to be "Our Nation's Neighborhood." The Victorian row houses on my street are charming; our trees are gloriously verdant. Military bands play on the Capitol steps on summer nights. But the pop-pop-pop of automatic-weapons fire is the tattoo we more often hear. Near my house in the 1990s we had drive-by killings, run-by killings, sneak-up killings, gunfights and battles, car chases. We had drug killings, vengeance killings, the killing of witnesses to other crimes, accidental killings, and killings that enforce values we can only vaguely fathom. We have had so many killings that our own values have been blasted askew.
I saw two dead bodies on February 13 of last year. I was driving down Fifteenth Street, near my house, when I saw two young men who appeared to be in shock -- caught up in a moment of helplessness. I quickly recognized the expression on their faces. It said, "Somebody's just been shot." Suddenly police cars were swooping down Fifteenth Street, sirens going. Two bodies lay in the back of a convenience store at the corner of Fifteenth and D.
Through the side windows we could see them on the floor near a rack of two-liter sodas. Neighbors rushed up breathless to press into the crowd at the window. Everybody was panting -- after a shooting there's a panicky rush to find out who has been shot, because people we know get killed in our neighborhood more often than strangers do. Who among us will go to a convenience store to get a candy bar, The Washington Post wrote about these killings, and end up dead?