It’s been more than two years since Loyola lost one of its own students to Chicago’s gun violence epidemic.
As Loyola student Mutahir Rauf walked near Albion and Lakewood avenues with his younger brother on Dec. 5, 2014, a man approached the brothers and attempted to rob them. A struggle ensued, and Mutahir Rauf was shot twice.
At just 23 years old, he died on the scene.
The Loyola community and the Rogers Park neighborhood mourned Rauf’s death.
Three days later, hundreds of students, faculty and Rogers Park residents walked through the streets near the Lake Shore Campus (LSC), calling for peace before convening at a memorial for Rauf at the scene of the crime.
During the next several months, memorials went up around campus. In the Halas weight room, where Rauf spent much of his free time, staff members hung plaques remembering the “lion-hearted and loving … son, brother and friend.”
A similar plaque was placed beneath a tree, planted in Rauf’s honor, in the Chapel Gardens.
We promised to remember, and we did.
But we might have gotten so caught up in remembering our fellow Loyolan that we forgot about everyone else who was killed in Chicago that day.
On Dec. 5, 2014, two other men were reportedly shot and killed: 20-year-old Cedric Goodwin and 26-year-old James Sweeten.
These numbers brought Chicago’s homicide count to 373 for 2014, according to Chicago Police Department (CPD) crime statistics.
Homicide rates continued to increase over the years. In 2015, there were 442 reported homicides.
As of Nov. 26 this year, there have been 693 people reportedly killed in Chicago, according to continuously updated data from the CPD.
What happened to Rauf was a tragedy, but it was not an isolated case. The unfortunate reality is that fatal shootings have become part of the norm in Chicago.
Most of the time, the relatively safe environment on LSC shields us from this violence. Still, events such as Rauf’s death and the near-fatal shooting of Loyola student Khrystyna Trinchuk earlier this year remind us Loyola is not immune to Chicago’s troubles. That’s why we need to confront them.
There’s no easy answer to fixing Chicago’s gun violence, and politicians can hardly agree on how to approach the problem.
What we can do, however, is refuse to normalize these deaths or become numb to them.
That means when the number of weekend shootings comes across our news feeds on Monday morning, we shouldn’t simply read the headline, think to ourselves, ‘This is ridiculous,” and move on.
Instead, read the story. Learn the names. Realize every statistic represents a person and someone’s loved one. Remember how your heart broke when Rauf was killed, and put yourself in the shoes of each victim’s family.
Part of that responsibility falls on us as the staff of The Phoenix.
We report on citywide crime, but in broad strokes, listing numbers and locations. We talk to people about how crime affects them, but never in the neighborhoods hurt by violence the most.
When crime hits the Loyola community directly, we learn names, talk to family members and share victims’ stories, but that’s where we stop.
We need to do better. If we don’t care enough to report past statistics, then we fail you, our readers. The Phoenix can and will do better.
It’s understandable that we mourn those closest to us the most, but to turn a blind eye to others with similar fates doesn’t bring anyone justice.
Rauf’s death was a tragedy. But so were the countless other deaths since. Our hearts break for him and his family, and they should for everyone else affected by this violence, too.