In March, The Huffington Post began talking to teens and adults throughout the U.S. about their experiences with gun violence. These are two teens' stories. You can read others here.
Jordyn Willis and Chelsea James are seniors at Lindblom Math & Science Academy in the West Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Their selective enrollment school is located just four blocks away from W.R. Harper High School, which was profiled this year on NPR's "This American Life." At Harper, 29 current or recent students were shot last year alone. Last fall, James' brother was shot in the leg. Willis and James, who live in the city's Washington Park and Bronzeville neighborhoods, are both active participants in the Project Orange Tree anti-violence initiative:
Chelsea: I've witnessed, like, people shooting and stuff like that, but it never really bothered me until November when my brother got shot. He got shot in the leg. He was with two cousins. And they shot him ... My two cousins ran and my brother ran, too, but they shot him in the leg, and my cousin left him and didn't bother calling anybody.
I had to find out through the actual hospital. That kind of really got to me because that was my brother. Me and my brother are really close. He's still alive but that really struck me.
I have never seen my brother cry, like, literally. I've never seen him cry, and that was the first time I've seen him cry. He just broke down in the car and I was devastated. My brother is like my best friend.
Jordyn: The hardest part is knowing that you actually have to fight to go to school. It's sad that we have to think, like, "Well, I might be next." We could not be doing anything, and I've got to watch my back because somebody's behind me.
When you hear the gunshots, you shake a little bit. And when you're actually there to witness it, just seeing the body hit the ground is just traumatizing in itself.
Chelsea: I remember one time, this might have been in January, and I was about to go to a basketball game, I was doing my makeup and I was about to go out the door and shots were fired. At least 10 shots was fired and I just immediately fell to the floor trying to hide. My sister was like, "Are you okay? Are you okay?"
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We waited a good 15 minutes, and we looked outside and there were ambulances everywhere. Two people died, and I was living across the street from them. And I was almost in tears because the way the gun sounded, the way the bullets flew -- it sounded like they were in my gangway back to the back of my house. I was just like, I don't know where they came from. It sounded like it was right by my house.
When I was younger, I knew stuff was happening and people were actually dying, but as you get older and the people that are dying start to become the same age as you, it really starts taking a toll on you. Like, for example, Hadiya, she was like 14. When people start to get the same age as you, you start to realize that really could possibly be me.
Jordyn: I've been seeing a lot on social media, people are saying it's gonna be a war zone this summer. And a lot of people who've been saying that are the people who are more likely to go and do the shooting and cause a disturbance in the area. They're talking about going downtown, just hanging out down there. We don't need that, that's a tourist attraction. You can't scare away all the money just because you have problems with someone else. We shouldn't have to stay home all summer.
Chelsea: Whenever you go out of town and you tell somebody you're from Chicago, they're going to think about that violence. They're not going to think about your nice, beautiful Lakeview town, or you know, coffee shops on every corner. They're going to think about the violence on the South Side. Even though you don't live there, you can't say, "Well, I'm not from that part, I'm from the good part." Either way, they're still going to have that bad mentality, that bad taste in their mouth about Chicago. It still affects you.
As told to Joseph Erbentraut.