Teen Poetry Contest Winner for 2001
Roshni Patel
Niles North High School, Grade 12

The Price of Death

Officer Paul Weinman,
Dressed sharply in his blue Skokie Police Department uniform,
Patrolled Old Orchard Shopping Center
Like he did every day,
364 days of the year.
The sun shined brightly along with the gold star attached to his right bosom.
Walking past the endless array of stores:
Pottery Barn, The Museum Store, and Tiffany’s.
Friendly smiles to shopping mothers with cheerful children.

But then:
"All officers alert.
Possible Hostage Situation. Please report promptly.
Over."
The smiles stopped and the fear rose.
The mind wandered with endless thoughts.

Officers popped up out from everywhere
And the hurrying footsteps could be heard
Walking toward Mario Tricoci.

Officer Weinman calmly ran his hand over to his left hip.
There lay his .45 caliber.
Never did he think it would be fired.
Just days earlier he had sat and cleaned it,
Making it shine.
Its purpose: he always thought, to impress the curious kids during DARE sessions.

Touching his semi-automatic handgun comforted him.
It would be here and he would use it.
He would not hesitate.
His job was to protect the people and that is what he would do.

Not too far away in Massachusetts the Smith & Wesson Company busily made 9mm handguns.
Selling thousands of guns each year,
Ranking #1 in the United States.
Do they think about the consequences of their actions?
Can they guarantee that this gun will end up in the holster of a police officer?
What about a 13-year-old kid who wants to kill his classmates for teasing him,
Calling him "thunder thighs"?
No.
"The gun industry needs more customers" and with this, "they target a new market: youth."

Little balls of sweat continued to roll down Officer Weinman’s neck
As the footsteps got quieter and the whispers got louder.
There’a a man in there!
And he’s got a gun!
One officer whispered to another and rumors began to spread.
In the background a woman’s shrieking wails could be heard.
The shoppers knew something was wrong.

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not infringed."
The second amendment made by our founding fathers.
But haven’t times changed?
Today the world is more violent, more deadly.
With our semi-automatics,
Ranging from 9mm to .45 caliber.
Are these to be compared to the bayonets of the times of our founding fathers?
These killing-machines are no longer used for their intended purpose:
Protection.
They take the lives of innocent beings.

Lives of innocent beings:
Britheny Varner, Natalie Brooks, Stephanie Johnson, Paige Ann Herring, and English
teacher, Shannon Wright.
Never will they get their driver’s license.
Nor enjoy their Sweet Sixteenth.
Little Zane will grow up without a mother.
Innocent Lives shattered by the bullet of a .38 caliber Magnum.
A caliber that our founding fathers permitted?
A caliber that should only fit the hands of a police officer?
Two angered kids: one who never fit in. One "pissed off" because Candace would not be his
girlfriend.
Driven to extreme solutions to small problems.
Lives of Innocent beings taken to the grave.
Lives taken by young boys.

All available police officers were to report to the basement of Marshall Fields.
The mall had been evacuated.
"Remember, be alert.
Innocent customers are still within.
Now everyone take your positions."
Officer Paul Weinman, slowly rose with the pack of other blue uniforms,
Quickly touching his left hip again.
Safe and secure in the holster.
Clean and fully loaded.
Ready to protect.
It would be here.

"Janie got a gun
Whole world come undone
Lookin’ straight at the sun.
They say when Janie was arrested…
She ain’t never gonna be the same
Now everyone is on the run."

In a world:
21 to drink alcohol.
21 to stay in a hotel.
18 to buy and posses a gun.
These are laws of injustice.

A six year old girl in Flint Michigan,
Precious life shattered by a single bullet from a .32 semi-automatic handgun.
Killed by an accident? Rape? Kidnapping?
No.
"I don’t like you."
The sole reason for her death.
Fellow 6-year old classmate, not even old enough to be jailed for his crime, to blame.
Playground disputes every day.
But does that justify Kayla’s death?
Never will she go to her Senior Prom.
Nor celebrate her 18th Birthday.
This all because a classmate decided "I don’t like you."
Lives of innocent beings taken by guns.

Guns:
Purpose: Protection.
Reality: Shatter lives of innocent beings.

Officer Paul Weinman took his mark,
Hidden behind a fake tree
Located in the lobby of Mario Tricoci.
Other officers were trying to calm the gunman.
Until further notices all he and the rest of the blue-uniformed men could do was wait.
It was getting really hot
And the sweat was rolling down his back.
All they could do was wait.

While nearby on the South Side of Chicago,
A frustrated grocer shot a man
Attempting to rob his store.
Neither man knew the other,
But tensions were strong.
Both had a semi-automatic gun and
Now it was just a race to see who get
The first and last shot.

What could have been solved with a phone call to the police,
Ended in the death of a 32-year-old man.
This time it was the death of the robber,
Not the victim.
But does that still make it right?

Lil’ Johnny is what they all had called him.
Ever since he was four years old.
Johnny was a happy man,
Or so it appeared on the outside.
A wife and three kids left behind.
Lil’ Johnny was not 6 ft under.
Taken down by a bullet from his own gun.
A semi-automatic handgun.
Poor Johnny, only 33 years old.

The nervousness of the officers could be felt in the small lobby.
They had been informed that the man was now surrendering.
Slowly he would turn himself in.
Footsteps on the stairs could be heard and
Officer Weinman gripped his gun tightly.
Sweat soaked his white Hanes undershirt.
Pointing his gun at the staircase, his hands shook in anticipation.

The hands of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold
Did not shake.
Just days earlier they attended their Prom.
Now they looked to destroy their Beloved Columbine
And the students within.

The Date: 4/20.
It was "weed-smoking day,"
Hitler’s 110th Birthday,
And now will also be remembered as the day of the Littleton Massacre.

It all began at 11:30 A.M.
Dressed in trench coats and wearing masks,
Eric and Dylan began their deadly shooting spree.
In the cafeteria it was free cookie day.
Hundreds of students waited in line
As lunchtime approached.
Bombs and gunfire were heard and many believed it was the senior prank.
But no one would dare call it a prank-seeing the thirteen innocent dead bodies.
Dead of being jocks.
Dead for being black.
Dead for coming to school on the day Eric and Dylan decided to get "revenge."
Nothing would stop the two crazy gunmen.
They made their way through the school
Shooting at everyone and anyone.
Cassie Bernall was asked, "Do you believe in God?"
When she answered Yes,
She paid the price with her life.
Then in the library – two boys, Isaiah and Matthew shot.
Loving football was their crime.
Another girl, dead just for pleading for help.
But soon the massacre was over.
It ended with thirteen innocent dead.
And two more bullets, from more than 900 rounds of ammunition, for the two gunmen.
A 9mm semi-automatic handgun, along with others took their lives.
The shooting spree was over, but the sorrow and grief would live on
Forever.

The gunman slowly walked down the staircase.
His hands in the air.
Ten guns pointed, ready to fire.
Five officers surrounding him,
Patting him down, making sure he was clean.
Five more officers checking on the victims.
Officer Weinman, among the rest of the blue pack,
Slowly put his shiny semi-automatic handgun back in the holster.
It had not been fired.
This time it was not used to kill an innocent being.
But rather it had done its job:
Protection.

In a world where people die
For wearing the wrong sneakers
Or being the wrong color,
In a world where the semi-automatic, the gun of a police officer, is used more to harm and kill
than protect,
We must restore the purpose of the gun.
Return to the belief of our founding fathers.
Let it be used to protect and not kill.
Keep it out of the hands of an angry 17 year-old and
Secure it in a police officer’s holster.