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‘We have to hear the mothers cry’

Fraser Smith Big

She hears her son calling.

“Mom, I’m coming. I’m coming, mom.”

He is not, and she knows it.

Cynthia Bruce speaks of her son, Marcus, 23, shot to death July 26, 2016. Shot to death on the block where his grandmother lives.

Of course she knows he’s gone.

But then she thinks she hears him call.

“They say it will get better,” she said. “It doesn’t.”

A graduate of Baltimore’s School for the Arts, Marcus was an actor. He performed in high school at Cardinal Shehan, and in various productions around the city. Members of his school for the arts ensemble are working now toward careers on the stage or screen in New York City.

Would Marcus have called to say he’d broken through?

“Mom, I’m in a play on Broadway.” Of course he would have called.

“Mom, you’ve got to come up and see me.”

Would he have been in the movies? Would he have married? Would there have been grandchildren? She thinks she knows.

But all she really knows: He’s gone.

A ‘running man’

Dorothy Scriber’s son, Lewis, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Aug. 30, 2010, apparently in retaliation for a fight years earlier. A fifth-year apprentice carpenter, he’d been building a house for himself and his family in Towson. He had two children, 6 and 8 at the time.

He’d been working since he was 11. He was a “running man,” a kid learning a trade.

“Work was all he knew,” his mother said.

Dorothy and Cynthia and Greta and Phyllis and Denise are voices behind the mute statistics. They came together to tell their unheard stories. It’s not all about drugs or hopeless kids with no belief in the future.

The carnage in Baltimore and other cities can be ignored easily without the mothers, the aunts and uncles and others who try to live long enough to find the end of the pain.

No one will live that long, says Cynthia.

We think we know this. But …

“We have to hear the mothers cry,” says Jen Pauliukonis, co-chair of Marylanders to prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit coalition supporting common-sense ideas to reduce gun violence.

She and Liz Banach, also a co-chair, introduced these women whose lives were overturned by guns.

Their voices give meaning to numbers we may almost know now by heart: 259, 33,000, 70,000, 88, 33 and on and on.

Many of us do think, for a moment at least, of the toll on families. But we don‘t often hear the stories or the voices of those who suffer lifetimes of loss.

Two hundred fifty-nine Baltimore murders as of Tuesday.

Eighty-eight gun deaths every day nationally.

Thirty-three thousand or so every year.

Seventy thousand woundings.

‘Deeper meaning’

The missing and perhaps unknowable statistic would show the number of families — mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters — whose lives, if not taken, are blighted by guns in our society.

Daniel Webster, a researcher on gun violence, says he tries “never to lose sight of the fact that the numbers he works with have a deeper meaning.”

That meaning was impossible to miss with the stories of Cynthia and Dorothy Paugh, whose father committed suicide at 51. Would he have done this if a handgun had not been handy? Having a gun in the house, she said, triples the risk of suicide.

The researcher Webster wonders if efforts to stop the killing miss a crucial, human dimension.

A good program that offered offenders an array of recovery options had potential, he thought. Missing ingredients — love and forgiveness — were being added when the program was dropped.

The killing goes on. No one is immune.

A chaplain with the police department, Denise Reid, said her son had been shot in the neck. He died three years after his shooting.

“I pray for the three young men who shot him,” she said.

To love and forgiveness, add prayer.

C. Fraser Smith is a writer in Baltimore. His column appears Fridays in The Daily Record. He can be reached at

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