Friday I was taking my children to a museum in Durham when I passed a church where a funeral was getting ready to take place. Absentmindedly, I blurted out to no one in particular, "I bet it's another murder victim." When I picked up the newspaper this morning it turned out I was right.
The story was just below the headline: "Raleigh Killings up 48% in '08."
Normally this is the time of year I think back on all of the murder cases I've covered in the past year and imagine families dealing with their first holiday season without their loved one-their child, their sister, their mother...I picture an empty seat at the Christmas dinner table and a missing hug from that person at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve. But instead, I am now thinking now about 2009. I'm thinking about how many people will die in the Triangle in the next year.
When I first came to WRAL in 1994 murder was still a rare thing in our gentile southern region. Sure, it happened, but it was not the norm. I knew all of the victims by name and their stories by heart. Now I can barely keep track of the cases. When indictments are handed down by the Wake County Grand Jury I have to research the suspects' names on our Web site in order to refresh my memory of the crimes they are accused of committing.
The other alarming trend is the age of the people being killed and the age of the suspects. Increasingly the suspects and the victims are still teenagers when they become involved in what we used to consider adult crimes.
Violence in our community affects all of us. Even if you don't live in the areas where the majority of the murders are taking place, you may work nearby or your children may go to school with the young people who have gotten caught up in a life of violence. It is a problem that will take a community solution.
So this year I am thinking ahead about who will be missing at the holiday dinner table in 2009. Hopefully, it won't be someone you love.