Bloodshed on My Front Doorstep

For the first time in my 25 years of living in what is now Hill East, today I have a neighbor's blood directly on my hands. My husband and I have always enjoyed the rich diversity of our neighborhood and loved sharing it with our two children, now adults, as they grew up here.

We have also heard gunshots, seen the aftermath of shootings, dealt with drug dealers and street gamblers, experienced break-ins and otherwise lived through a variety of crime. And, like many urban folk, our experiences with crime and violence did not start in DC. Over the years, I have known victims of rape, shootings, and murder as well as other crimes. I have mourned too many wasted young lives.

I believe it is our collective responsibility, as the grown ups, to create a world where violence is not the inheritance of the next generation. However, I have yet to find anyone who knows how to make this happen.

Just yesterday, I wrote to organizers of Project End Gun Violence: “I've signed all the petitions, read names [on the Capitol lawn] when we were demanding 'no more names,' showed up at the Million Mom March however many years ago, written letters, chanted, etc. etc. etc. Yet, I don't see any progress. What now?”

Today, I walked out my door to find one distressed neighbor, a fleeing suspect, and a trail of blood.  I attempted somewhat inexpertly to stanch the wounds of my neighbor. There's still some blood lodged in the engraving on my wedding ring. I don't know how to get rid of it. Had a gun been involved, at least two lives might have been destroyed in a moment.

This is not an experience I want to repeat. Nor do I want to read one more notice from MPD informing us that someone was stabbed or shot or otherwise harmed on our streets. I do not want to read of more shootings in Chicago (my hometown) or violence elsewhere.

In conversations around town, I get the impression that many in DC believe the violence on our streets and the conditions that lead to it are part of a different universe. Many of us know otherwise.

This morning's experience brought the violence in DC home to me in a very visceral way: The blood being shed, however far down the street, is our neighbors'. It is precious. Most importantly, it's our collective responsibility to work together to make sure no more is spilled.

Virginia Spatz is an educational and community activist who moved to what is now Hill East in 1988. She is an occasional contributor to Capital Community Newspapers, feature reporter for We Act Radio's Education Town Hall, and blogger at