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Opinion: Their deaths leave holes that will never be filled

An aerial view of Chicago. In the past few days, at least six high school students in the city have been shot outside their schools.
An aerial view of Chicago. In the past few days, at least six high school students in the city have been shot outside their schools.

In a world we know can be beset by loss and hardship, it is still appalling to hear that in the past few days, at least six Chicago high school students have been shot outside their schools. Four of them died.

Monterio Williams was 17. He loved cars, and looked forward to going to a trade school after graduation.

"He said that morning he'd found a good one," Blondean Gartley, his mother, told us. "And that was the last time I saw him alive."

Monterio Williams and his friend, Robert Boston, who was 16, were shot and killed as they left Innovations High School in Chicago's Loop last Friday. According to reports, two cars pulled up to the students on the street. Six masked gunmen started firing.

Also last week, 18-year-old Maurice Clay Jr., who was a star athlete at Loomis-Longwood High School on the south side of the city, was shot to death outside of his school. Witnesses say a small car with a missing bumper pulled up and fired "dozens of rounds."

The police had just left the school after what the Chicago Sun-Times said were "gang-related issues."

Theresa Maiz, Maurice Clay's mother, told ABC Chicago, "Now I got a hole, and it can't be filled ..."

Then this Wednesday, 16-year-old Daveon Gibson was shot to death, and two of his friends wounded, as they walked toward the eL station from Senn High School on the north side of Chicago. According to reports, a car pulled up to the students. Several people leapt out, and started shooting.

I went to Senn High School. Part of what we learned from going to a huge, diverse public school came by freely walking the streets of the neighborhood before and after classes. What will it do to students if they feel they must be frightened for their lives in the streets that surround their schools?

Chicago's homicide rate declined 13% last year. But this statistic will be no comfort for families whose children have been shot. Blondean Gartley, Monterio William's mother, told us, "I'm scared every time I hear the phone."

No arrests have been made in any of the shootings, which police say seem to be "isolated incidents." But isolated incidents can add up, week after week, to become overwhelming.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.