"Struck by Lighting" –– A Personal Essay by Omar Allende


Lucio Villa

Omar Allende

Death can happen in a matter of seconds. The snap of someone’s fingers is all the time needed to go from one place to nowhere. For me and people that live in my neighborhood of Little Village, this is what we have to worry about every day. Wearing the wrong color or being in the wrong place at the wrong time could be the end. With the pull of a trigger, life is taken away. Sadly, I have been affected by the reality that goes by the name of gun violence. It has changed my mindset, sometimes I don’t even feel safe at my own home. I look behind me when I am walking somewhere to be sure that I’m safe at the moment.

One silent, cold night, I am coming home from a basketball game. The only thing lighting the darkness is a single streetlamp. As I walk up the stairs,  I hear four loud pops outside my home. I am frightened by the noise, so I run into my room that has the cool, crimson walls that slow my heart rate down, the one place where I feel safe or at least I think am safe. Then, I hear the loud and alarming noise of an ambulance’s siren; it sounds as if God has summoned His angels to play the trumpets that begin the end of days. The next morning when my mom was on her way out the door, she told me, “the noises were gunshots and the ambulance came to pick up a dead and soulless body in front of the house.”  If I had been out for another moment, I could have been on the news that day: I would have been another stat on the city’s annual report, I would have been on the list of souls taken away by metal and gunpowder. Since Death has been with me, a friend, I am no longer surprised when he comes up unexpectedly.

Little Village, a neighborhood in Chicago, is where I call home.  About 74,000 people live in Little Village. Every single person is unique in their very own way, either by looks or different talents. The lady with gray sprouting from her hair, has cats of all colors, shapes, and sizes, while my neighbor has an army of dogs ready to protect and serve as if they were the Minutemen. Even though we all are very different we all go through the constant fear of our own neighborhood. In Little Village, four people were murdered and 64 people were wounded so far in 2018. Even though these numbers seem tiny, the neighborhood is fairly small. For all of the people in these tough neighbors, Death is a familiar face that we see lurking around every corner, day and night.

Even though you may say that my neighbourhood is bad or very dangerous, I still call this warzone my home. I was born and raised here, I learned all the lessons that made me who I am today. I learned to listen to my Mom from watching the news with her and hearing about the sad stories told by devastated parents who lost their most precious to gunfire. I learned that I am not immune to the disease that is slowing killing people one by one around Chicago by looking at my young uncle in his coffin, laying there like a giant statue. Though I have seen many tragic things, I still see a light to a better day, a better life filled with peace and love for all people and  happiness in the faces of the young and old.

I want to see more people becoming involved in protesting against gun violence so that all children have an opportunity to have a future, to be able to change the world, rewrite the history books, and create a beautiful image of Chicago once again.