ST. LOUIS — Eddie Hill III remembers how his son would drag him outside to play basketball on the blacktop near their home in the evenings, and tears come into his eyes.
"I ain't doing good at all," Hill said, wearing a shirt with the image of his son Eddie Hill IV, emblazoned on it along with the boy's nickname, Whogi. "I don't want nobody feeling this ... it's senseless. People just don't care no more. They're killing kids and everything."
Ten-year-old Eddie Hill IV died in a shooting on the evening of July 19 in the 4700 block of Page Boulevard on his own front porch. His father was with him. Eddie is the ninth area child killed in shootings since June.
A Thursday morning rally against gun violence was followed by an emotional vigil Thursday evening for Eddie Hill IV. Family members, friends, community members and community leaders gathered to memorialize Eddie, preachers speaking passionately from his family's front porch steps in the Lewis Place neighborhood about bringing an end to the gun violence plaguing the community. The crowd stretched across neighboring yards and into the street.
"Brothers and sisters, we are not all right," Better Family Life Vice President of Community Outreach James Clark said thunderously into the microphone, Eddie's family surrounding him on the porch. "As long as we're killing each other, as long as we're disrespecting each other, we are not all right. ... Guess what? It's our responsibility to change it. We want to be able to turn the page."
Victoria Ryan-Bailey, a lifelong St. Louis resident, implored those present to "surround" and "love on" Eddie's mother, Rachel Kemp-Hill, and the rest of the family.
"This is our family," Ryan-Bailey said. "This is our neighborhood. These are our neighbors ... God knew that little soul who liked to smile and laugh and joke all the time."
At the behest of speakers, people in the crowd embraced the people next to them, offered "I love yous" to strangers and held hands in prayer.
Pamoja Preparatory Academy teacher Julie Orick walked up the porch steps to hug Eddie's family. Eddie was in the first-ever class she taught, she said.
"He was hilarious," Orick said, her eyes reddening. "He made everybody laugh all the time. He always put a smile on my face. And he was like my right-hand man — if other kids were acting up, he would always try to help me. And he was very smart ... we loved him so much."
Thursday morning, a "Young Lives Matter" event was hosted by nonprofit group Better Family Life to focus attention on the effect of gun violence on children.
Seeing more than a dozen white heart-shaped balloons, each one marking a child's death by gun violence in St. Louis this year, made Jeriece Westbrook clutch her two children a little closer on Thursday morning.
"I could never put myself in these parents' places," said Westbrook, 34, who lives in University City with her son, 9, and her daughter, 15. "You learn to appreciate every day."
Each balloon marked a child under the age of 17 to have been killed in St. Louis since January. The rally was the brainchild of children in the organization's youth leadership academy.
Around 150 children from about 5 years old to middle-school age participated in the event, holding signs and reciting personal poems. Aniya Sykes, 14, of Bellefontaine Neighbors spoke at the rally about how gun violence has affected her. Her brother, Michael Murphy, was 21 when he was shot to death in 2016.
"Being in St. Louis is really hard," Aniya said.
19-year-old camp counselor Daisha Robinson of Normandy voiced a similar concern while speaking at the rally, saying, "Growing up is hard, but growing up in my city is harder."
She said it's very important kids know their voices are supported, especially in the midst of the recent deaths. Now a student at Harris-Stowe State University, she wants her students to know they're no different from her.
"I was just them yesterday," Robinson said.
Caleb Camp, 21, of St. Louis has been involved with Better Family Life since he was 10 years old. As a camp counselor, he said it's important his children are taught gun violence prevention.
"All the youth are connected whether they know it or not," Camp said. "They're all the future of the city and the world."
He added that Better Family Life is intended to help children reach their future. He lets his students know it's ultimately in their hands.
"You are in charge of your life," Camp said. "A program like this will lead you in the right direction if you need that direction."
Miranda Jones, vice president of youth, family and clinical at Better Family Life, said she's proud her students wanted to voice their concern about gun violence in St. Louis.
"There's no better feeling than to see them take the lead," Jones said.
Growing up in East St. Louis, Jones came to Better Family Life nearly 15 years ago to work with young people in St. Louis. She said change is what the city needs.
"We want to see a difference," Jones said.
With the death Saturday of 14-year-old Ien Coleman, the number of child deaths by gun violence in St. Louis rose to 18 in 2019 alone.
Coverage of children who died in the St. Louis area in 2019
These are the local incidents of homicide or neglect involving children, based on Post-Dispatch reporting. This list doesn't include children killed in car accidents (unless a criminal charge was filed) or incidents not being investigated by homicide detectives.
At 9:20 a.m., East St Louis police drove to the John de Shields Housing Complex, 1235 McCasland Avenue, after reports of a shooting.
Tavares Chisholm, 4, of St. Louis, was hit and killed by a car as his mother pushed him and a 2-year-old in a stroller. A 27-year-old was char…
A 15-year-old boy was gunned down before sunup when someone fired a flurry of shots into a home in the north St. Louis County area of Glasgow …
The shooting happened shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday near the 11100 block of Oak Parkway Lane, as the teen walked through an apartment complex …
A 3-year-old boy fatally shot himself after finding a gun in the Laurel Park apartments north of Jennings, police said.
Mayor Lyda Krewson urged tipsters to call CrimeStoppers at 1-866-371-8477. The usual reward is up to $5,000 for helpful tips.
The mayhem has left brass begging for leads, politicians promising change, and parents at wits’ end: frustrated by lackluster investigations, …
Taylor Jordan Baumer, 20, of the 1000 block of Adworth Drive in Mehlville, has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child in the fir…
Robert Michael “R.J.” Dorsey, was shot about 9:15 p.m. in the 800 block of Vegas Drive, in south St. Louis County. He was shot in the torso an…
Michael Henderson Jr., 15, of Centreville was shot in the 800 block of East 15th Street. Police responded to the scene at 2:37 p.m.
Myiesha Cannon, 16, was shot in the head about 1:25 a.m. in the 4400 block of Lexington Avenue. Police have labeled the shooting as a "suspici…
Police are labeling the case a "suspicious death" and released no additional details. Her mother said she found a 9 mm pistol and accidentally…
The parents of a baby girl who died last week after being left inside a hot car in Calverton Park were charged with manslaughter Monday.
A St. John woman left three young children alone for several hours and came home to find her 4-month-old son dead, prosecutors say. She was ch…
Police initially called the shooting a "suspicious death," but later said they had concluded Evione accidentally shot himself in the 1700 bloc…
Malik Moore, 17, was shot in the 100 block of Chambers Road about 2:50 p.m., authorities said. He lived on the same block, just west of Riverv…
Demarco Washington, 32, of the 10700 block of Spring Garden Drive in the Glasgow Village area, was charged with a felony count of child endang…