This blog post is simply meant to reflect on and remember a guy who left his mark on the world, and more intimately, my heart.
I woke up on the morning of May 8, 2013 in my freshman college dorm room hoping that it had all been a dream.
The sun shone brightly through the white blinds, my sheets were ruffled from all my tossing during the night and my pillowcase was still stained with tears. The signs were there. This was no dream. With the smallest glimmer of hope that I was living in some illusion, I reached for my phone.
Every morning I scrolled through my Twitter timeline to see what I missed as I slept. I opened the app, and at that moment, it was finally confirmed that I hadn’t dreamed up my reality.
“Kevin Ambrose is dead”
“19-year-old man on Chicago’s South Side was shot, killed”
“I can’t believe he’s gone”
“Police search for person suspected of killing a Columbia College student”
Yes, the night of May 7, 2013 occurred. And my friend Kevin was dead. As I continued to scroll through my timeline I relived the night, the horror, the unfathomable. For me, the events of that night are incredibly hard to articulate. There’s many ways to move the words around and restructure a sentence so it is perfectly precise, but after all these months I still haven’t found a way to do it.
So here it is: On May 7, 2013, my friend Kevin Ambrose was shot and killed on the South Side of Chicago while walking to the train to meet a friend. After the man who opened fire on him left the scene, Kevin laid bleeding and dying under the Green Line’s 47th Street ‘L’ station as his friend called for help. Kevin was 19.
May 7, 2013.
Writing that date still pains me. Writing that date makes my heart sink. That date made me a different person. And it’s fitting that it did. Kevin was a bright presence in my life. From the first day we met I could see he had so much energy and sincerity. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. I was just happy he wanted to be my friend. Our friendship lasted throughout the rest of high school.
Then on May 7, 2013, he became a news story. He became a Facebook post and a R.I.P. tweet and a In Memoriam picture. Though I loved reading and seeing all the love shown for Kevin in the aftermath of his death, all were reminders that he was no longer here. I would never have another conversation with him, even if it just consisted of a quick “hey what’s up” text.
On May 8, 2013, I tweeted, “I can’t believe this is happening. Not now. Not ever.”
That was six months ago. As I write this blog post now on Nov. 7, 2013, I realize that six months can pass in a flash, as summer fades and fall and winter are ushered in. But looking back on May 7, reminds me that some days can last for an eternity.
Today is Nov. 7, 2013. Six months ago was May 7, 2013.
When I first heard the news of Kevin’s death, time ceased to matter. I had been sitting in Doheny Memorial Library half studying for my upcoming finals and half editing a Daily Trojan article about a student initiative, the USChangeMovement, that was rapidly growing on the University of Southern California campus in the face of a perceived incident of minority students being racial profiled by the Los Angeles Police Department. I first read that Kevin died on Twitter while taking a study break.
Finding the news of Kevin’s death stunned me.
It shocked me. It scared me. It scarred me.
I wanted to find out more information about how he died, if anyone had been arrested, how his family was doing — but then again I didn’t think I could bear knowing.
For the next few hours I cried on the shoulder of my friend who was there to comfort me, listen to me, understand me, but at the end of the night when I laid my head down I knew I would be alone with my unending thoughts.
Six months later. And I’m here.
In the six months since Kevin died, I’ve considered what the long-term impact of his death would be in my life. Should I continue working on anti-gun violence campaigns? Could I ever move back to Chicago? Would I name my first son after him? As with all things in life, the experiences of the past always find a way to infiltrate the present.
In the same way, the past has its own mysteries that I am not able to fully answer. Where was I when Kevin took his final breaths under the ‘L’ station around 11 p.m. Chicago time? It was 9 p.m. here in Los Angeles. I had just covered an event that made me feel empowered and on the top of the world. I didn’t find out he was no longer with us until midnight Los Angeles time. What was I exactly doing during that time?
I look back on the days leading up to that fateful one. I had been stressing about finals, battling a nasty cold, yet reached out to Kevin on May 6 to see how he was doing. May 18, 2013. That was the day we had planned to hang out when I returned home after the semester.
Oftentimes I find myself trying to shift through the dates to find another date — another memory with him — that will stand paramount to May 7, 2013. Sometimes I’m successful. Other times my mind won’t let me forget. But I always know — no matter how hard I try — May 7 will be there regardless of the number of months or years that roll by.
Six. Six months. Six months ago today. On this day six months ago. Six full months.
So I write all this realizing that marking the sixth month anniversary of Kevin’s death has become my double-edged sword. I don’t quite know how to move forward without forgetting, or if forgetting is a form of moving forward.
I have always been very good at memorizing dates. That will not change. Nor will the events on the night of May 7.
I wrote this blog today not just to mark six months after May 7, but all the other dates that he touched my life. From the first time we met to all those times we watched Guy Code together. The moments he made me laugh with his childish humor to those times we listened to old Kanye and had conversations where we shared our plans for the future. To all those times we rode the CTA together and randomly ran into one another downtown by YouMedia.
Though I don’t mark them all with anniversaries, I realize that in many ways those dates have more significance than May 7, 2013. For those are the dates he brought joy to my life. These memories remind me that as hard as it seems I can find the beauty in life even after it presents me with its unfairness, cruelty, tragedy. For the past six months the road of life has twisted me and turned me. It has pulled me and pushed me. Today on Nov. 7, 2013 it has eventually left me on a path I never imagined I would be standing on.
But I guess that’s life. The show must go on.
May 7, 2013. I wish I wouldn’t remember as easily.
But if I forgot who would I be? I have so many questions and not as many answers. I do know some things are for certain though.
Kevin Ambrose’s memory will continue to live past May 7, 2013. And — despite it all — so will I.