This isn't about me or about Navy Yard, but it's about someone's life I happen to have been touched by, and about how despite there being a lot of great things to cheer about in this city, there's still a lot of hurt, and a lot of people out there who deserve better than they've experienced so far. I share a lot about some of the really positive things happening in the neighborhood and around DC, and feel like this warrants inclusion here as well to paint a little bit fuller of a picture of the people and places around us.
Last night, Virgil Wood - a neighbor from the block I lived on in Anacostia - was shot and killed on his front stoop, directly across the street from my old house. I'll admit, I usually gloss over headlines like this. This kind of thing happens so often around DC, and I've become pretty numb to it. In this case, because it's about someone who I've known since I moved back to DC, who's been to my house, and whose number is in my phone - the headline is just really crushingly personal. Reality check.
Virgil was a teenager when I moved to Anacostia in 2007, and was 22 and the father of a little girl - now a student at Ketcham Elementary around the corner - until last night. I didn't know him all that well, but he was a friendly guy who wore a big smile, and welcomed me with a high-five handshake and a "hey Dave" every time I came by. He was a volunteer when Casey Trees helped our block plant tons of new trees back in 2009 (photo is from the yard he was killed in), and a friend and familiar face to many.
He was also the product of tough circumstances. I remember watching as he took a spot on the corner with the older guys, and hoping he'd stay above whatever it was they'd sometimes get in trouble for. There was the time he asked me to look over a job application, and I remember noticing -- not in a patronizing way - how under- and differently-resourced he was, how different his academic experience was and his hopes in the work world were than my own, and beginning to learn about how systemic so much of that was, and is.
Virgil was unique. But that story of not-so-great influences and lack of resources is shared by so, so many young men and women in DC. Teaching in DC Public Schools this year has given me even more of a window into that. I want other kids to have it better. I know that's easy to say, that there's nothing simple about making it happen, and that there are a lot of people working really hard to make things better.
When I stopped by the block today to remember Virgil with neighbors, one woman remarked that "things never change." I know it feels that way to a lot of people. I don't want to believe that's true. But change doesn't always happen quickly or on its own, that's for sure.
Virgil: Thanks for helping to make me feel welcome when I moved in, a real part of the block when I lived there, and for making me feel at home when I visited over the past four years. I'm so sorry that this happened. I'm going to miss seeing you around. Rest in peace.